Wellington, Florida – February 2, 2019 – Olympic gold medalist Ben Maher (GBR) bested a seven-horse jump-off among riders from five nations to win the FEI $71,200 NetJets Classic at the CP Palm Beach Masters Winter Classic CSI4*-W presented by Suncast. Fractions of a second separated the top four and the contest for third ended in a tie.
In the jump-off, five of the seven horse-and-rider combinations went clear on the Alan Wade-designed course. Ireland’s Conor Swail set a fast target completing a double clear in 44.96 seconds on Rubens LS la Silla.
“My guy is more scopey with more of a slower canter so it’s much more difficult when you’re up against these guys with quicker step horses. This is my first show with Rubens this year and I was delighted with how he went. It was very close, I think there was .2 seconds between the first four. It was an exciting class,” said Swail. “It’s great to be here. Even our warm-up rings are pristine. It’s a wonderful venue.”
Swail’s place in the winner’s circle looked even more secure after Nayel Nassar (EGY) went double clear on Lucifer V, but in a slightly slower time of 45.04 seconds. Maher somehow managed to shave off .14 of a second on Cirus du Ruisseau Z to take the lead with a time of 44.82 seconds. Eve Jobs (USA) and Venue d’Fees des Hazalles also went double clear in 45.04, leaving them in a tie for third.
“I had a lucky draw,” said Maher. “I was quite close to the end with Darragh (Kenny) behind me. I decided not to go too quickly on the first three jumps, the difficult NetJets combination. With Cirus being a young horse, I just got that out of the way and really sped up towards the end. I didn’t think I was fast enough. Although I was quicker, there were two riders behind me that really knew what they had to do. Darragh definitely took some chances early on. Fortunately for me it didn’t pay off for him today. Everything just came up right for me.
“My horse loves to do his job. I promised him a day off tomorrow. I said he could go in the field if he jumped a clear round in the jump-off, so my groom will make sure that I hold my word to that tomorrow.
“This horse show is truly amazing – for the horses, the riders, the grooms and the owners,” Maher added. “Nothing is too much trouble. I have to say thank you to the Jacobs family for believing in our sport. Without that family and what they are doing here, a show like this wouldn’t exist. The way the show has developed in the last two to three years is incredible and hopefully they are enjoying it too and they will continue to develop the show in the future. We all owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude.”
Competition concludes on Sunday’s $208,200 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Wellington, which serves as the penultimate east coast qualifier for the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final in Gothenburg, Sweden in April.
On Saturday morning, the grass ring featured the $25,000 Platinum Championship Grand Prix presented by the Upperville Colt and Horse Show. Ali Wolff (USA) took top honors, besting a six-horse jump-off on HH Venice Beach. Cormac Hanley (IRL) was second with Copain Z and Adrienne Sternlicht (USA) was third riding Cadans Z.
In the jump-off, Sternlicht was the pathfinder finishing her double clear in 34.031 seconds. McLain Ward (USA) had a rail on Zarina De Vidau, which eventually left them in fifth place. Rodrigo Pessoa (BRA) and Farrero also went double clear in 37.601 seconds for fourth place. Wolff took a chance that paid off taking the win with a time of 33.412.
“In the first round, we all added a stride in the first two lines, but then in the jump-off I saw both Adrienne and McLain leave out a stride. It made me a little bit nervous, but I thought if I wanted to win, I would need to do it too. It was a little bit of a chance, but my horse made it look and feel so easy. She turns super-fast and she is just so speedy, that if I don’t get in her way, she’s good to go. I just can’t say enough about her attitude and her heart. She just goes out every single time and tries her best. She’s just a powerhouse.”
Philip Richter and Pistoya had two rails for sixth place, but final rider Hanley nearly dethroned Wolff finishing a fraction behind with a double clear time of 33.449 seconds.
“I was worried that my time wouldn’t hold up. We have a running joke in our barn that the Irish always beat me. So, when Cormac went, I thought, ‘well at least I’ll be second.’ He’s so fast, but I finally broke the curse!” said Wolff. “I won the Upperville Grand Prix in June and this class was sponsored by the Upperville Colt and Horse Show so I’d like to think it was fate. This show is fantastic. This is where we start all our bigger horses. The grass ring is so great here. I don’t know a single horse that doesn’t like to jump on this type of footing and they jump amazingly well, so you get the best of both worlds.”
About the Palm Beach Masters Series® and Showgrounds at Deeridge Farms
The Palm Beach Masters Series® hosts top international equestrian competitors from across the U.S. and abroad. Beginning with one elite competition in 2016, the series has grown into one of the sport’s most prestigious events. The show grounds are located at the spectacular Deeridge Farms, situated in the heart of North American equestrian sport in Wellington, FL. Award-winning landscaping surrounds the custom-built show grounds and the facilities that host the series, which include two masterfully-created competition arenas – a Grand Prix turf arena and an all-weather sand arena. Additionally, there are two Bermuda grass schooling arenas—one designated for FEI and another for non-FEI competitors—along with an all-weather schooling arena adjacent to the competition arena and another located near the stables. The events’ picturesque location, unrivaled hospitality, custom-built jumping rings and world-class facilities guarantee a one-of-a-kind experience for riders and spectators alike.