‘He’s like a Ferrari’: Ben Maher wins Royal Windsor grand prix as Tokyo beckons *H&H Plus*

  • Explosion W shows fantastic form at this rescheduled show, taking the feature class in the week his Olympic selection is formalised

    WITH four weeks to go before the Games, Ben Maher and Explosion W showed the home crowd at Royal Windsor Horse Show exactly how golden their medal hopes are at the Tokyo Olympics.

    It’s been almost two years since we’ve had the chance to witness the unparalleled athlete that is Explosion W on home soil – on that occasion he triumphed in the Global Champions Tour grand prix in London. Just 20 miles further west, he was untouchable once again in the CSI5* Rolex grand prix.

    “He has a good track record in England, I wish the Olympics were here!” said Ben, who understandably couldn’t sing the praises of this magnificent chestnut enough.

    “He’s like a Ferrari, he fills me with so much confidence,” he said. “There are many great horses in the world but he’s such an intelligent horse. That’s what makes such a difference.

    “I think if I asked him to cook me breakfast he probably could do it!”

    Course-designer Bernardo Costa Cabral had set out to build a track that was worthy of a CSI5* grand prix, with riders vying for their slice of a €500,000 (£430,000) prize fund.

    “I put in a little bit of everything,” he said. “There’s a plank, there are scopey questions, there are delicate questions. It’s all about moving and control, moving and control.”

    But this world-class field stepped up to his demands, with 10 of the 28 starters delivering clears, while a further four riders – Britain’s Jack Whitaker (Sclenletha), Joe Stockdale (Equine America Cacharel), the USA’s Kent Farrington (Gazelle) and Ireland’s Michael Duffy (Jeff Ten Halven) – all collected just one time-fault.

    Alongside Ben, three other British riders contested the jump-off – pathfinder Harry Charles (Borsato), Emily Moffitt (Winning Good) and William Whitaker (Galtur). They were joined by two riders for Switzerland, two for the USA, one for Sweden and one for Italy.

    Harry, who had been on brilliantly consistent form all week, set a decent opening clear from the difficult position of first draw. Emily Moffitt also left all the fences up, although one second slower. But Harry’s advantage was snatched midfield by Sweden’s Henrik Von Eckermann and his Olympic ride King Edward.

    Switzerland’s Martin Fuchs, also riding his Olympic partner, Clooney 51, then claimed a short-lived grip on the silverware, only for Ben to immediately axe 1.71sec from the target.

    Ben began by effortlessly taking a stride out on the first line, which rode on nine strides for most, before 12-year-old Explosion continued to devour the arena, seeming to cover improbable distances through the air as well as over the ground.

    “I didn’t know if I needed to do the eight [to the second fence], although I got a typical Explosion jump – he just puts his legs into places other horses can’t,” Ben said.

    World number two Steve Guerdat and Venard De Cerisy put in a superb late try but remained 0.76sec astray, slotting into second for Switzerland – meaning all the top three riders were Olympic combinations.

    “I’m very happy with second place – Ben and Explosion are unbeatable. To try to win you have to take too much risk,” Steve said.

    Martin was equally magnanimous over his third-place finish: “It’s my horse’s last show before the Olympics and third place behind two of the best riders in the world is a good result.”

    Ben will now begin to wind down his own competition schedule ahead of Tokyo, while Explosion will enter quarantine in around two weeks.

    “I am confident now that we’re right where we want to be,” Ben said. “I absolutely know I have got a chance, I know I have the horse.”


    Read more analysis of the showjumping and showing classes at Royal Windsor Horse Show in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 8 July.

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