“For Fuchs sake!”
That’s what Bertram Allen and Ben Maher uttered in my head watching Martin Fuchs snatch glory from their lightly calloused hands at Royal Windsor Horse Show on Sunday.
Set against the formidable backdrop of Windsor castle riding a coronation high, 32 combinations contested the Bernardo Costa Cabral designed CSI5* Rolex Grand Prix. Nine advanced to the short course, including Allen and Maher.
The Irishman had the unenviable task of going first in the order. Aboard Pacino Amiro, Allen produced a faultless round in 34.50 seconds, then had the anxiety-inducing wait to see if their time would hold up…
Maher, newly back in the ring after breaking his shoulder, was first to pip him to the post. His Olympic gold medal and 2021 Rolex Grand Prix winning partner Explosion W stopped the clock at 33.77, leaving all the poles in place—as the 14-year-old gelding is wont to do. Explosion W has a phenomenal 75% clear round average over 51 rounds at the 1.60m height, according to Jumpr App.
“I did what I had to do in the jump-off,” said the British Olympic gold medalist. “I took a lot of risks and nine times out of ten that might have been enough, but it’s never over when you’ve got Martin [Fuchs] after you. I don’t think I could have done any more.”
The video confirms that assessment.
Former world no. 1 Fuchs made a spectacular turn to the penultimate fence to clinch the victory by 0.40 seconds with his partner of three years, Connor Jei.
“Connor Jei was fantastic today,” said the delighted Swiss rider.
“I knew who I needed to watch, and Bertram and Ben were the two rounds I watched. Bertram had a hard draw—to go first in the jump-off is never easy, but he did everything very well. Then I watched Ben and saw where he left out the strides compared to Bertram, and just tried to do the same round as that, just hoping to be a bit quicker.
“I think I made up a little bit of time to the second last—I knew that I wanted to do seven strides to the turn, which is what Ben did, I actually didn’t turn as hard as him, so I really had to push hard for those seven strides and I think that’s what made it quicker in the end.”
The victory is the 14-year-old gelding’s second Rolex Grand Prix title. He and Fuchs took the titular Grand Prix in Dinard, France in 2021. Since 2020, they’ve logged 13 international podium finishes and a 59% top ten finish average at the 1.60m height (Jumpr App).
Their 2023 season, however, had a late and admittedly bumpy start. Returning to the ring in March, they schooled a pair of 1* shows Gorla Minore, Italy, then returned to the venue for a 3* in April but didn’t regain to their former glory, prompting Fuchs to call in a family favor.
“[Connor Jei] is back after quite a long break since Geneva [in December] as he did a lot of shows last year, so we gave him the indoor season off. To be honest he wasn’t so easy at the last show I took him to, so I wanted some advice on what I should be doing differently and how I could help the horse to be at his best again, so I called my uncle—[Olympic medalist] Markus Fuchs—and he has been riding him three times a week, so I’m very lucky to have him to help.”