British rider Ben Maher piloted Jane Clark’s 18-year-old stallion Tic Tac, the horse he rode at the 2016 Rio Olympics, to a heart-stopping finish in Sunday’s $137,000 Restylane grand prix at the 2021 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF), Florida.
His victory came by the narrowest of margins – just one hundredth of a second – over Canada’s Eric Lamaze, who was also riding his 18-year-old Olympic partner, Fine Lady 5, with whom he won the individual bronze medal in Rio.
Rounding out the top three in a fantastic result for teenage horses was Conor Swail of Ireland on the 13-year-old GK Coco Chanel.
“For me, the grass arena here is one of the best grass arenas there is in the world,” said Ben of the Derby field at Equestrian Village where this week’s classes took place.
“That’s why I picked this week to bring a horse of Tic Tac’s age over here. They’re great conditions. I thought it was a great course, and it was nice to see some new jumps out here this year. It’s so refreshing and great to be over here.”
A total of 42 entries tackled the track set by course designer Oscar Soberon (USA) with 12 returning for the jump-off, where the British rider soared round and crossed the finishing line with the clock stopping just to his advantage.
“It was my lucky day, and sometimes it just happens like that,” said Ben.
How did it all begin for this phenomenal duo?
Great Britain’s leading showjumper Ben Maher reveals his (sometimes surprising) answers to the day’s burning questions
Eric Lamaze said: “Fine Lady is naturally very fast. I’ve had a few classes where we went too fast and paid for it, and I asked myself, ‘Why did I go so fast?’ I was trying to keep a good rhythm. I knew who was coming behind me; Ben is one of the best riders in the world. I knew I rode a fast course.
“We appreciate all of the effort that is made to keep us safe from COVID. These are difficult times, so we should all be grateful for that,” he added.
Don’t miss our exclusive interview with Ben Maher in this week’s issue of Horse & Hound, out Thursday 28 February.