Ben Maher’s Olympic hopes for Tripple X were boosted by an assured win in one of the most competitive Rolex World Cup qualifiers seen in the contest’s 32-year history at Olympia horse show.
Ben had the benefit of a late draw in the 11-horse jump-off though his precocious nine-year-old would not have been expected to better the audacious round of Marcus Ehning and his vastly more experienced 12-year-old Sabrina. But Ben kept his head and lasered 0.35 secs off the German’s time.
“Sometimes you kid yourself whether they are going to be good enough,” said Ben. “But we knew he was special from the very first show he jumped.”
Tripple X was bred by Ben and later his long-term backers, Emma and Mike Phillips, bought a half share. “Some people breed 200 a year. We breed three a year for fun and get one like this — it’s just luck,” Ben added.
Dermott Lennon and Hallmark Elite were third for Ireland with the only other double clear, and Robert Whitaker next best of the British, seventh on USA Today.
Earlier, Ben won the H&M Speed Stakes with Milena, just half a second faster than Pius Schwizer and Koby du Vartellier, overtaking Marcus Ehning as leading rider of the show.
However, his bubble burst in the final H&M Ivy Stakes when Tackeray ran out in the nine-horse jump-off and, losing his concentration, lowered three fences for 16 faults. A beaming John Whitaker scored his first victory of the week with Dazzle II, ahead of Robert Smith and Balourado.
Robert Murphy, 11, achieved something his international trainer father Peter never did when winning a class at Olympia, the H&M Mini Stakes, with Greenfield Chinook, a pony borrowed back from his younger brother Michael for the occasion.
Don’t miss Thursday’s magazine for our full report on Olympia,including detailed analysis of all the action, on sale 22 December, 2011