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Ben Maher Bookends Nations Cup Week With a Pair of Wins

Wellington International // Cassidy Klein

The heat was on—both literally and figuratively—during the CSIO 4* Sunday Grand Prix on March 3 during Nations Cup Week at Wellington International.

The air was muggy with temperatures ticking above 80° Fahrenheit, but Individual Olympic Gold medalist Ben Maher didn’t seem to notice. As the pathfinder in the jump-off for the JTWG, Inc. CSIO 4* Grand Prix, the rider for Great Britain did what he does best, jumping double-clear and notching yet another seamless win, this time aboard the 10-year-old Swedish Warmblood stallion, Point Break.

Course designers Steve Stephens and Nick Granat didn’t pull punches in their testing, first-round track, with 45 riders taking to the field hoping for a piece of the $200,000 purse. A narrow, blue and yellow wall off the short turn and a demanding triple combination proved the undoing of several combinations.

Maher was first to go in the international, five-rider jump-off, which also included Tom Wachman (IRL) & Berlux Z, Sharn Wordley (NZE) & Champion League, Coco Fath (USA) on Aventador 5, and Zoe Conter (BEL) with La Ulna.

Much of the shortened course was decided by the rider’s choices at the first few obstacles, particularly a right roll-back turn from a wide Kubota oxer back on a light vertical, and then on to the Lugano Diamonds vertical-oxer combination at Jumps 4ab.

Maher opened the door, getting his work done early with a tidy turn back to Jump 3 in seven strides. This allowed him to take his time and give the in-and-out the respect it deserved before opening up his horse’s stride for the last few efforts, stopping the clock at 41.4 seconds.

At age 19, Tom Wachman was the youngest contender in the second round field but had a refusal at the combination and four rails down, settling for fifth place. Next to go, Sharn Wordley set out to catch Maher but took a rail in the process, finishing on a time of 46.22 seconds. The USA’s Coco Fath took a more conservative approach, riding for the clear and finishing on two time faults—but guaranteeing herself a place on the podium. Last to go, Zoe Conter put the pedal down but also had a rail, stopping the clock at 42.34 seconds to take third place.

This is the second big win of the week for Maher, who was also victorious in the $32,000 Adequan® CSIO4* WEF Challenge Cup Round 8 on Thursday, February 29 with Ginger-Blue. The British rider has been partnered with the less-experienced Point Break since his six-year-old year, and says this is the stallion’s most significant grand prix victory to date.

“It wasn’t so long ago he was spooking off every golf cart, but he was always a very talented horse and he’s progressed on very nicely,” Maher said. “His athleticism is what separates him from the other horses.

“The way he can bend his body and move his shoulder allows my job to become much easier. I can ride at the jumps and trust that he can do the job for me.”

In their six classes together at 1.60m, Maher & Point Break boast an astounding 83% clear-round and top-10 podium finish percentage, according to JumprApp. And they’re nothing if not consistent. At all heights above 1.50m, in fact, the combination jumps clear and finishes in the top-10 at 50% or better—yet another sign of big things to come.

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