It had been two years since he’d jumped a wall and three years since he’d won over one, but Ben Maher claimed an outright win in the Alltech puissance after sticking to his word.
“After my old puissance horse [Eperlan Du Fouquet] was sold, I swore I’d never jump a puissance again unless I had a horse I knew could win it,” said Ben. “And I knew this horse could.”
His partner for the evening was Noctanbule Courcelle a former puissance winner for Ireland’s Cian O’Connor, who helped Ben warm up for the class.
“He can get quite excited,” said Ben, who was bought the ride by the Cook family two weeks ago. “So Cian gave me advice on how to calm him down.”
By round five, only Ben, Michael Whitaker (Cyber-Space II) and Tina Fletcher (Promised Land) remained. In recent years, the wall hasn’t gone above 7ft2in, but on Friday night course-designer Bob Ellis added an extra inch. And Ben was the only rider to clear it, despite nudging one of the top white bricks slightly.
“I asked the owners if they wanted a fun horse that’d be a winner and they went along with me and bought him,” said Ben. “So I am glad I’ve been able to deliver what I promised for them.”
The audience were in party mood throughout the day and hadn’t lost their voices after screaming at the top of their lungs during Guy Williams’ Earls Court Olympia Christmas cracker stakes win with Torinto Van De Middelstede.
From a particularly strong field, 17 made the jump-off which turned into one of those finales that reminds you just how competitive and thrilling showjumping can be.
As last to go, Guy, listening to the cheers from the crowd to gauge his speed around the course, smashed Dutchman Marc Houtzager’s leading time with HBC Tamino.
“Torinto absolutely loves it when the crowd cheer him on like that,” said Guy, who also won the day’s opening accumulator with new ride Titus. “It makes him go faster.”
Ellen Whitaker needn’t worry about having a quick horse for speed classes after the retirement of her old stalwart Kanselier. Royal Rose nipped round the mistletoe stakes course with absolute ease, angling fences and turning back on himself, to win for his newly-brunette rider.
Don’t miss H&H’s full report on all the action from Olympia horse show, on sale Thursday 23 December