“My guys around me tell me I’m getting too old.”
That was Ben Maher (GBR) in the press conference after the $35,000 Sovaro Palm Beach Masters Qualifier at the CP Palm Beach Masters in Wellington, FL on Friday.
The double Olympic gold medalist, who is all of 35 and has the fresh face of a newborn infant, rode to the win on his 2016 Olympic partner, Tic Tac. He says the victory is welcome respite for a rider low on horsepower.
“It’s been a lean time for me over the past year or so and I haven’t sat up here very often. So I thought with these two young girl’s ahead of me I need to set them straight,” joked Maher.
Last to go in a five-horse jump off, the former world #1 shaved nearly a second off the times of USA’s Lauren Tisbo (34.43 seconds) and Adrienne Sternlicht (34.51 seconds) to stop the clock at 33.71 seconds.
“Sometimes jump-offs just go right. Every time I turned, I picked up the first distance,” said Maher. “Tic Tac is a quick horse, he covers the ground and, like I said, it went our way today.”
Maher will compete the 15-year-old bay stallion in Sunday’s Longines FEI World Cup™. But don’t expect to see them in the ring on the regular.
“Tic Tac kind of goes his own way, his own style. When he come to me from Leslie Howard, he had to go very fast to build for the team for Rio. He’s 15 years old now. I think you have to protect him a little bit,” said Maher, who has not competed the stallion since early November last year. “He jumped one small round a week ago and then straight into this class today.”
Tic Tac may do one additional Grand Prix during the Wellington winter circuit, but likely won’t show again until the summer, he continued.
“Maybe we’ll head over [to Europe] and jump some Nations Cups, Global Champions Tour, that kind of thing. We’re going to use him sparingly and focus building some of the younger horses. I don’t have so many old horses to choose from right now, so we’ll pick and choose where to go,” said Maher.
Tisbo and Coriandolo di Ribano finished in second in the $35,000 Sovaro Palm Beach Masters Qualifier. Sternlicht and Cristalline, third.
The top 40 horses in Friday’s class have qualified to compete in Sunday’s $220,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Wellington, presented by Sovaro®. Watch it (for free!) on Horse Network Live and palmbeachmasters.com/watch-live at 1:00pm ET.