Ben Maher continued his extraordinary winning streak in Florida, as he landed a 5th grand prix at the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival last weekend (15 March).
45 competitors were vying for the Horseware Ireland CSI 3* first prize of $125,000 (£75,124), but just 6 qualified over Richard Jeffrey’s technical track for the jump-off.
The pressure was on Ben — who was last to go on Jane Clark’s Urico — after the first 5 jumped double clear. But he stopped the clock 0.24secs ahead of US rider Lauren Hough (Ohlala).
“I am on a lucky run right now, and Urico felt great,” said Ben, who had been saving the 13-year-old gelding “specifically for this class”.
“The course was very difficult, probably one of the most technical we’ve had here and it caused a lot of problems. Then the jump-off was flowing and I had the lucky draw again to watch all the riders go. I just did what I could do and tried not to make a mistake.”
Runner-up Lauren said that she knew Ben could snatch the win despite her fast time.
“You’re never certain you’re the winner when you have Ben following you with the streak he’s been on,” she said. “Perhaps I could have been a bit faster to the last jump, but it was very, very close.”
Urico’s other 2 wins this season have been during daylight, and Ben said that he responded well to the atmosphere for the night-time class.
“He was quite fresh under the lights,” said Ben. “If they are experienced enough, they come alive and jump sharper.”
In the 10 weeks so far of the 12-week festival, the world number 2 has won $925,000 (£556,320) in 5 grand prix, including the $370,000 (£222,520) FEI World Cup Grand Prix CSI-W 5* on Cella.
“I am enjoying a great streak for now, and at some point it’s going to change for sure,” Ben said. “We lose a lot more than we win in our sport, and at the moment it’s going my way.”