With a final round flyer to claim victory in the Longines Global Champions tour of Rome grand prix on the talented Explosion W, Ben Maher also secured the LGCT champion of 2018 title in a fairytale ending to his blazing 2018 season.
Ben has dominated the 2018 season with three grand prix wins and under intense pressure as last to go in today’s scintillating grand prix jump-off, he eased the nine-year-old Explosion W into victory to secure his place in LGCT history, taking the grand prix championship title one show early with an unbeatable 47 point lead.
“It has been an incredible season, I can’t quite believe it. It is great to be back in the top end of the sport. Explosion W is incredibly fast, I have never ridden a horse as fast without really pushing him. What a horse – Explosion is phenomenal for his age. To finish in style like this is something I will savour for some time. To win is a dream come true,” said Ben.
“I’ve had my ups and downs and some bad years and I’ve been on the LGCT for a long time and never come so close to winning, this is something special.”
Course-designer Uliano Vezzani required perfect and precise performances from the stellar horse and rider combinations with no room for error and the tough course for the 35 qualifiers produced only five clear rounds.
Ireland’s Michael G Duffy set the ball rolling with a good clear on Castlefield Rubinus but left the door open for Belgium’s Jos Verlooy on Caracus for a short-lived lead. However, the experience of Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann showed as he smoothly clipped half a sec off the time on Cantinero – but as last-to-go and already winner of two Global grands prix, Ben was always a danger.
The stage was set and despite the enormous pressure, Ben coolly delivered as he guided the super-scopey Chacco-Blue/Baloubet Du Rouet gelding Explosion W to a breath-taking clear for the grand prix of Rome and the championship title.
“There was a bit of pressure today, with the team for GCL, and to qualify for the Grand Prix. Explosion took a bit of time to settle [in Rome], he wasn’t quite as relaxed in the first couple of rounds but as I was warming up for the Grand Prix I could feel him kicking into gear as he normally does. He jumped incredible today. I was fortunate as last to go - he’s naturally very very fast, and I made one or two mistakes in previous rounds which cost me greatly! I’m very proud of this horse,” said Ben.
Ben picked up another four faults with Explosion W in the second competition of the Global Champions League but London Knights partner Olivier Philippaerts on H&M Legend in Love posted a double clear to put the team in fourth spot. The London Knights still top the leaderboard by 23 points over Valkenswaard United as they head to the final leg in Qatar.
Nina Barbour posted the steadiest of the clears in the 13-strong jump-off of the 2* 1.30m to take equal seventh on the 12-year-old Douglas Delight.
Photo © Stefano Grasso/LGCT