Olympic champion Ben Maher soared to victory in Calgary, Canada, with Exit Remo in the 1.50m TELUS Cup yesterday (6 September) in the Spruce Meadows international ring. 15 combinations came forward to the jump-off, where Ireland’s Denis Lynch set the pace with a speedy clear on 14-year-old gelding Brooklyn Heights on 40.82sec. But Ben held nothing back to snatch the lead on Exit Remo on 39.98sec. Ben was also fourth with nine-year-old gelding Enjeu De Grisien.
Ben said it was “amazing” to have a victory under his belt at the start of the show – especially as he had not been around to ride Exit Remo last week while he was at the Europeans in Milan with Faltic HB, where the pair finished fourth individually. He credited his groom Kirsty for riding Exit Remo in the days leading up to Spruce Meadows, and said the San Remo gelding felt in “perfect form”.
Exit Remo is no stranger to the big ring at Spruce Meadows, having been third with the Netherlands’ Patrick Lemmen in the Nations Cup event last year. This was the performance that caught Ben’s eye.
“I was at home last year watching and wanting to be here and we were looking for a horse with a bit more experience, and so we bought him just after Spruce Meadows,” said Ben, who co-owns the 14-year-old gelding with Charlotte Rossetter and Pamela Wright.
“I thought he was an older, worldly horse, but actually he’s sensitive. He’ll like this today, because it wasn’t as big as some of the competitions are going to get in the week, and he gets confidence from a round like that and he really grows into himself. So he wasn’t quite the horse I thought he was in the beginning, he has that sensitive side, but he’s a very easy horse to handle; he rides in a snaffle, and he makes my life pretty easy.”
The pair have had some notable success this summer, including being part of Britain’s historic victory at the Hickstead Nations Cup, and third at the Brussels Nations Cup leg. Ben will take Exit Remo forward to the team event on Saturday (9 September), in what will be the Brits’ first team Spruce Meadow appearance for years. They will be joined by teammates Sameh El Dahan and WKD Toronto, Matt Sampson and Equine America Ivanhoe GPH, and John Whitaker and Equine America Unick Du Francport.
Asked how it feels to be joining John Whitaker on a team at Spruce Meadows, where John holds legendary status, Ben joked that the 68-year-old “just doesn’t want to give up”.
“I think he might still be here in another 15 years,“ he said. “My son’s only just over a year old and he’ll probably be riding with John Whitaker on a team in years to come.”
Matt Sampson scored another win for the Brits in the Spruce Meadows international arena, following his phenomenal winning streak at the venue last summer, to take victory in the one-round 1.45m Cardel Homes Cup with 13-year-old gelding Fabrice DN, on 61.27sec. He also won the 1.40m Richardson Wealth Cup with 11-year-old gelding Curraghgraigue Obos Flight.
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