Great Britain’s Ben Maher and Diva II led an international lineup to win the 5-star FEI World Cup Grand Prix at Florida’s Winter Equestrian Festival at the weekend.
The pair topped a three-horse jump-off in the $372,000 competition, with Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum (GER) and Fibonacci 17 in second and Laura Kraut (USA) with Cedric third.
The course under lights by Ireland’s Alan Wade tested all of the horses and riders, and only those three, out of the 41 starters, advanced to the jump-off. It took 17 rounds before Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Fibonacci 17 were the first pair to jump clear in round one. Another 17 rounds, and Laura Kraut and Cedric jumped the second clear to make a jump-off. Second to last out, Ben Maher and Diva II put in the third clear trip. The three combinations returned to settle the final standings in one more round.
Michaels-Beerbaum and Fibonacci 17 were first to return, jumping clear over the short course in 46.31 seconds. Kraut and Cedric had one rail down in a slower time of 46.76 seconds. Maher and Diva II were last to go, clearing the course in 46.03 seconds for the win.
Maher started riding Diva II (Kannan x Berlioz), a 10-year-old Anglo European mare, in November and finished out last year’s Winter Equestrian Festival with a 1.50m win in week 11 of the circuit. Diva has developed throughout the year and came back even better in 2015, stepping up to the bigger classes and proving her talent in Saturday’s challenging World Cup qualifying event.
Despite jumping at the end of the class and returning for the second round after only a brief break, the mare put in the extra effort.
“It was a pretty quick turnaround for me. I was second from the end, so Diva did not have much time to recover, which I really felt in the warm-up especially before the jump-off,” Maher said.
“That jump-off probably was not my best ever round. Diva is hairy in the way she goes. She is not so conventional always, but I did not have a lot to lose. A couple weeks ago I played it safe. Tonight I knew I would be top three, so I figured that I would have a go and with a little bit of luck here and there, it paid off.”
Diva, who is owned by Tatiana Korsakova, also won a class at Olympia with Alan Wade building.
After winning the $372,000 Suncast CSI 5 Grand Prix two weeks ago, Michaels-Beerbaum was thrilled with another top finish for her talented mount, Fibonacci 17. The 10-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding (For Feeling x Corland) has become a worldwide star since pairing up with the German rider and once again showed off his impressive jump under the lights.
For Kraut, this top three finish with Cedric was emotional, as every moment with the 17-year-old gelding is cherished. A pint-sized Holsteiner (Chambertin x Carolus Z), Cedric gave it his all and will now have a well-deserved break.
“He has such a big heart and tonight it was very, very difficult. I promised him earlier that if he was good tonight I would not make him do anymore this circuit and he could have a little break. He must have heard me. I want to thank Margaret Duprey for making it possible for me to have this horse until he is 17 and on. It is a blessing every time.”
Kraut was also presented the Leading Lady Rider award for week nine, presented by Martha Jolicoeur of Illustrated Properties in memory of Dale Lawler.