Britain’s top two jumping riders scored a quinella in the $125,000 grand prix at the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida on Saturday night.
Ben Maher and Scott Brash, the top two ranked riders in the world, bested an impressive field of horses and riders in an exciting ten-horse jump-off.
Maher, the number two ranked rider in the world, came out on top with his mount, Cella. Brash, the current number one ranked rider in the world, finished second behind his Olympic teammate with Ursula XII. Alvaro de Miranda (BRA) and AD Norson placed third.
Guilherme Jorge of Brazil set the course for 45 competitors on Saturday night with ten clear rounds and a difficult jump-off, in which the top two were the only combinations to clear the short course. Scott Brash and Ursula XII, owned by Lord and Lady Harris and Lord and Lady Kirkham, were the first pair to clear the course in 39.05 seconds, but had to settle for second place when Ben Maher and Jane Clark’s Cella took the challenge and came in on 38.68 seconds. Alvaro de Miranda and AD Norson, owned by de Miranda and Victory Equestrian, completed the fastest four-fault round in 39.61 seconds to place third. McLain Ward (USA) and Sagamore Farm’s Rothchild finished fourth with four faults in 40.06 seconds.
As well as the top two riders in the world, the class also featured other highly-ranked riders, with fourth place fiinsher McLain Ward (USA, 20th) and third placegetter Alvaro de Miranda (BRA, 29th) joined by Beezie Madden (USA, 4th) and Kent Farrington (USA, 10th).
Maher began riding Cella, a 12-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare by Cento x Chin Chin, during the FTI WEF circuit last winter and got his first big win with her in last year’s Fidelity Investments Grand Prix, a $100,000 CSI 2*.
“She’s just a phenomenal jumper. She does it in her own style, and the more I let her get on with it, the better she is,” Maher said. “It was a good course tonight. I thought it was big for a 3*, but it has to be big with the horses and competition there is here. In the jump-off there were not too many options. I thought the first round was a great course, very technical, and the jump-off was relatively plain and simple. It was a race between me and Scott tonight.”
Brash’s mount, Ursula XII, is a 13-year-old Scottish Sport Horse mare by Ahorn x Papageno. Brash got the ride on Ursula just after the Olympics in 2012, but explained that it took some time for them to figure each other out.
“It took us probably six months to a year to just gel as a partnership, and I wanted it to change her a bit to my style, and I tried to adapt to what she likes, but I have to say she’s a joy to ride and she’s such a sweet horse in every way. She’s a real top horse,” Brash said.
Maher said had he known that he and Brash would have the only two clears, “perhaps we should have spoke before and come to an arrangement to slow down a bit”.
“I’ve been lucky, same as Scott, with my team, my horses behind me now, and the support from Jane Clark. It has made all the difference in the past 12 months. It just proves how much we need the owners and the sponsors to support us and how much success that can bring, and we both work hard.”
De Miranda was happy with his third place finish aboard AD Norson, a 13-year-old Selle Francais stallion (Quidam de Revel x Grand Veneur) whom he has ridden since the horse was four years old. The top placing was a happy end to a bad day for de Miranda after getting news about an injury in one of his top horses. AD Rahmannshof’s Bogeno, on whom he won last year’s $500,000 FTI Consulting Finale Grand Prix CSI 5* with, has sustained an injury that will keep him out of competition for a minimum of six months.
A special new award was presented before the class on Saturday night. The Engel & Völkers Owner Award recognizes the owner with the highest earnings in prize money each week. The award includes all horses by the same owner in both hunter and jumper divisions.
During FTI WEF 1, Paris Sellon (USA) was the top earning owner. Ronan McGuigan (IRL) was the recipient of the award for FTI WEF 2. Week’s three’s top owner will be tabulated upon completion of competition on Sunday and the award will be presented at the start of next week’s $50,000 Ariat Grand Prix CSI 2* at The Stadium at PBIEC on Sunday, February 2.
An award for the Leading Lady Jumper Rider was presented as well, awarded to Germany’s Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum after a great week competing with her veteran partner, Checkmate 4.
Also showing in the International Arena on Saturday, Alexandra Crown and Verona jumped to victory in the $15,000 SJHOF Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic, presented by Engel & Völkers, Sollak Carr. Lucy Mitchell-Innes and Casey Curtis’s Riley II were victorious in the Horseware Ireland Don Little Masters speed class, and Emanuel Andrade and Hollow Creek Farm’s Carboni won the Sleepy P Ranch High Junior Jumper speed round.
$125,000 Fidelity Investments® Grand Prix CSI 3*
1. CELLA: 2002 BWP mare by Cento x Chin Chin BEN MAHER (GBR) Jane F. Clark: 0/0/38.68
2. URSULA XII: 2001 Scottish Sport Horse mare by Ahorn x Papageno SCOTT BRASH (GBR), Lord and Lady Harris & Lord and Lady Kirkham: 0/0/39.05
3. AD NORSON: 2001 Selle Francais stallion by Quidam de Revel x Grand Veneur ALVARO DE MIRANDA (BRA), Victory Equestrian Sport BV & Alvaro de Miranda: 0/4/39.61
4. ROTHCHILD: 2001 Belgian Sport Horse gelding by Artos x Elegant de l’Ile MCLAIN WARD (USA), Sagamore Farms: 0/4/40.06
5. CAFINO: 2003 Swedish Warmblood gelding by Cardento 933 x Roderik 856 ALEXANDER ZETTERMAN (SWE), Alexander Zetterman: 0/4/41.46
6. CHECKMATE 4: 1995 Hanoverian gelding by Contender x Pik Bube II MEREDITH MICHAELS-BEERBAUM (GER), Octavia Farms LLC: 0/4/42.70
7. EVENING STAR: 2002 Holsteiner gelding by Coriano x Lenz HEATHER CARISTO WILLIAMS (USA), Mr. & Mrs. Ralph Caristo: 0/4/46.41
8. VICTOR: 2002 KWPN gelding by Elmshorn x Grandeur TIFFANY FOSTER (CAN), Artisan Farms LLC & Torrey Pines: 0/8/39.77
9. UNEX CHAMBERLAIN Z: 2001 Zangersheide gelding by Chellano Z x Peter Pan TIM GREDLEY (GBR), Unex Competition Yard: 0/8/45.00
10. ZERNIKE K: 2004 KWPN gelding by Sam R 60 x H Topas BRIANNE GOUTAL (USA), Remarkable Farms LP: 0/27/62.64
11. MIC MAC DU TILLARD: 2000 Selle Francais mare by Cruising x Galoubet A DAVID WILL (GER), Bernadette LeJeune: 1/80.25
12. ZARA LEANDRA: 2004 KWPN mare by Metropole x Ahorn PABLO BARRIOS (VEN), ZL Group, Inc: 1/81.75