Just two hundredths of a second separated first through fourth in the $71,200 NetJets Classic at the CP Palm Beach Masters Winter Classic CSI4*-W on Saturday night.
But it was the slacker who came out on top, so said his rider.
Great Britain’s Ben Maher posted the fastest time in a podium decided by fewer milliseconds than it takes to pop a bottle—by offering his mount Cirus du Ruisseau Z a powerful incentive.
“I promised him a day off tomorrow,” revealed the Olympic gold medalist. “I said he could go in the field if he jumped a clear round in the jump-off, so my groom will make sure that I hold my word to that tomorrow.”
Fifth to return for the Alan Wade-designed short course, Maher and the bay gelding bested a seven-horse jump-off with a clear round in 44.82 seconds.
“I had a lucky draw,” said Maher. “I was quite close to the end with Darragh (Kenny) behind me. I decided not to go too quickly on the first three jumps, the difficult NetJets combination. With Cirus being a young horse, I just got that out of the way and really sped up towards the end. I didn’t think I was fast enough. Although I was quicker, there were two riders behind me that really knew what they had to do. Darragh definitely took some chances early on. Fortunately for me it didn’t pay off for him today. Everything just came up right for me.”
Finishing a mere fraction of a second behind Maher in 44.96 seconds was Ireland’s Conor Swail on Rubens LS la Silla.
“My guy is more scopey with more of a slower canter so it’s much more difficult when you’re up against these guys with quicker step horses. This is my first show with Rubens this year and I was delighted with how he went. It was very close, I think there was .2 seconds between the first four. It was an exciting class,” said Swail.
Just milliseconds behind the Irishman were USA’s Eve Jobs and Venue d’Fees des Hazalles and Egypt’s Nayel Nassar and Lucifer V. The pair posted double clears in the identical time of 45.04 to tie for third.