Ben Maher and the phenomenal Explosion W immediately hit winning ways at the Longines Global Champions tour of New York. The outstanding pair won the 47-strong 5* 1.50/1.55m speed class – which ran concurrently with the League – by 0.70 sec.
In a script worthy of the Broadway stage, Friday’s Global Champions League of New York round one saw the London Knights claim pole position - propelling themselves back into the 2019 title fight as Saturday’s Championship decider rests on a knife edge.
London Knight’s formidable combination of Martin Fuchs with Clooney 51 and Ben Maher aboard Explosion W blew away the competition in a jaw-dropping class today, taking pole position and every advantage possible heading into Saturday’s showdown.
However, just one rail away after today’s results are the current ranking leaders St. Tropez Pirates, with Pieter Devos and Dani G. Waldman collecting just 4 faults in the complex class to put them within touching distance of a podium - and the Championship title - on Saturday.
In a drama-fuelled day, the Shanghai Swans - who were placed second in the overall rankings so far - were eliminated from the competition after Peder Fredricson and Zacramento unexpectedly parted ways during today’s first round of action. Their elimination would mean the team cannot improve on their score this weekend, dropping the Swans out of contention for the title.
Martin Fuchs spoke after their round: “It helped that we have two of the best horses in the world and are in great shape, so it’s a great start. My horse Clooney is in the best shape he’s ever been now.”
Teammate and team manager Ben Maher revealed the team’s tactics: "Martin and I sat down and we had a plan this week. We have our two best horses here, and it's the first time we’ve teamed them up together.”
But the experienced British Olympic gold medalist remained clear-headed: "One minute you can be winning, the next you can be out, and every score counts. We’ve come with one of the best teams possible this weekend to put pressure on the others, so we’ll hope to produce more clear rounds tomorrow."
With clear blue skies and picture-perfect weather, the first part of the conclusion to a roller-coaster GCL season kicked off in the spectacular city of New York. For the first time in history, Governors Island played host to the world’s best horses and riders, with spectators and VIPs enjoying unprecedented views of Manhattan’s downtown skyline and across the water to the Statue of Liberty.
Uliano Vezzani produced a cracker of a course, with the beautiful purpose-built fences showcasing many of New York’s greatest images. A Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building-flanked vertical caught the eye of many, and a NY silhouetted pair of verticals gave the horses plenty to look at. Vezzani’s 1.55m course was a test for the riders, with options on strides and careful decisions to be made on whether to take the inside, or outside turns. A light-to-touch GC plank would claim the most victims, as would a delicate green-and-white double set just off the in-gate.
Third in the Championship and 8 points behind the leaders, St Tropez Pirates, the London Knights pulled out the big guns for this round of action. First in was Martin Fuchs with his top horse, the 13-year-old grey gelding Clooney 51. The pair flew round in perfect harmony, the talented stallion jumping his heart out for the young Swiss rider - clearly fresh and enthusiastic at they attacked the course. They delivered the clear, passing the baton to teammate Ben Maher and his top horse, Explosion W. With Martin watching on, Ben and Explosion threw down the gauntlet, delivering a second powerful clear to keep their Championship title hopes alive.
Valkenswaard United produced the only other zero score to stand second with four teams one rail behind on four, including the current league leaders the St Tropez Pirates - it is all to play for on Saturday.
Blythe Masters claimed a double victory. He topped the seven-horse 2* 1.15m two-phase with Damn Smooth, the Luidam/Diamond Lad 11-year-old winning with 1.28 sec to spare.
And Blythe went on to top the 15-horse 2* 1.25/1.30m two-phase on Eriana. Brits filled the top three places here, Blythe and the Eldorado Van De Zeshoek/Indoctro nine-year-old winning by 0.70 sec. Tess Carmichael claimed second and third with Bangle SR and Atlantis PP Z.
Text © Jumping Around/Photo courtesy LGCT/Stefano Grasso