Adding to their illustrious roll of honour on Saturday (5 June), the pair racked up an astounding eighth LGCT grand prix victory with a masterful double clear in Valkenswaard.
It is hard to put into words just how phenomenal this horse is and to appreciate his immense list of achievements; how fortunate we are to have him flying the flag for Great Britain, particularly with the Tokyo Olympics fast approaching. Ben is one of the leading contenders hoping to be picked to represent Great Britain at the Tokyo Olympic showjumping and has been named on the nine-strong list of nominated entries.
The welcome sight of Ben and the 12-year-old chestnut gelding returning to the podium came after one of their most assured performances to date. Success came with a two-second advantage over four of the world’s top riders in an exhilarating jump-off, one that Ben said “gave me so much confidence”, and he was quick to pay tribute to the “incredible” talent of Explosion W.
“It feels amazing,” said the leading British rider, now ranked number four in the world. “Every time I ride him, he makes me feel like I can do anything.”
Dutchman Maikel van der Vleuten was the pathfinder in round two against the clock and scorched home clear with Beauville Z to clock a time of 46.06 seconds.
Frank Schuttert and Lyonel D finished a fraction behind in 46.24sec before Harrie Smolders set off at high speed on Dolinn NOP, only to hit the penultimate fence in 45.67sec.
Ben was fourth to go with the gelding owned by Charlotte Rossetter and Pamela Wright and the big-striding chestnut devoured the fences set by Uliano Vezzani in Valkenswaard’s vast turf arena.
“We started pretty quick to number one and his right turn is not his best but it’s got better in the past year,” explained Ben. “I planned to do 10 strides across the middle [of the arena] but I saw nine and we kept going and it meant that the seven strides [after the fence] was holding, which I believe some of the other horses were struggling to do.
“It was one of those jump-offs where every turn came up really well for me. He’s jumping amazing and gave me a lot of confidence. He was in incredible form and it makes my life a lot easier as a rider when I’m riding a horse like Explosion. His ears were forward and he was really enjoying his job. It was a lot of fun.”
Only those who appear on this list may be put forward for selection for the Tokyo Games
How did it all begin for this phenomenal duo?
Last drawn Eric Lamaze (Fine Lady 5) blasted off with great determination but hit two fences en route to take fifth place.
In taking victory in the LGCT grand prix of Valkenswaard presented by Nichiho, Hertfordshire-based Ben earned a ticket to the 2021 LGCT Super Grand Prix in Prague in November to defend the title he won with Explosion W in 2019.
“It is great to get our name on the board for Prague and hopefully this is the start to a great summer,” he said.
Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade to access our H&H Plus online service which brings you breaking news as it happens as well as other benefits.