Wellington, FL - February 9, 2011 - Ben Maher (GBR) scored a win this morning in the $8,000 G&C Farm 1.45m Jumpers on the opening day of week 5 of the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival. Maher and Oscar put down a winning time of 60.806 seconds for the win over Peter Wylde (USA) on Lipton De L'Othain (62.987 seconds) and McLain Ward (USA) on Domino (64.050 seconds).
The FTI Winter Equestrian Festival's fifth week of competition continues through Sunday, February 13. Week five, sponsored by Spy Coast Farm, will feature the $31,000 WEF Challenge Cup Round 5 on Thursday afternoon, the $150,000 FEI World Cup Grand Prix, presented by Spy Coast Farm, on Saturday at 7 p.m., the $15,000 Artisan Farms Young Rider Grand Prix on Sunday morning, and the Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Classic on Sunday afternoon. The 2011 WEF will continue through April 3 and award more than $6 million in prize money.
Today's $8,000 G&C Farm 1.45m Jumper class had 41 entries, and they competed over a course designed by Alan Wade of Co. Tipperary, Ireland. Maher stated, "It's good that they have different course designers here every week."
Seventeen found the way to a clear round, but it was Maher and Oscar who had the most speed. "He's naturally a fast horse, so if you're clear, he's always near the top end without even trying," Maher pointed out.
Maher and Oscar, a 15-year-old KWPN gelding by Harcos x Animo, have only been together for seven months, but they have made the most of their partnership. They won the Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Classic in week 2, just a few days after Oscar shipped over from Germany.
Maher noted, "It took him a while to recover. He feels a lot more happy to jump now. With the heat, it took a while for him to adjust. He jumped one round last week in the WEF (Challenge Cup), which was quite big. It felt like he struggled a little bit so we came back down. We jumped in the 1.45m today to try and win a little money and to build confidence with the horse. I find it's easier when I drop him down a level to go back up. Hopefully it will pay off."
Oscar has been a do-it-all horse for Maher. "I've used him for everything," he acknowledged. "When I didn't have a grand prix horse, he jumped some World Cup grand prixs, speeds, everything really. He's a 1.50m horse; that's his comfortable level. He can go to the next level if we have to. We have to look after him, which is why its nice for him to jump one level down, be competitive, and enjoy what he does."
Oscar is owned by Lindsay Cook, who competes at the young rider level but is at university now, so Maher got the ride on him. Maher has been traveling from Europe to Wellington. "I'm back and forth a little bit from Europe to here because my best horse Robin Hood is at home, but I'm enjoying the weather and look forward to coming back here every year," he said.
Final Results: $8,000 G&C Farm 1.45m Jumpers
1 OSCAR BEN MAHER LINDSAY COOK: 0/60.806
2 LIPTON DE L''OTHAIN PETER WYLDE WINDWARD FARM & JESSICA SIUDA: 0/62.987
3 DOMINO MCLAIN WARD BLUE CHIP BLOODSTOCK: 0/64.050
4 G&C IN COLOR PABLO BARRIOS G&C FARM: 0/64.760
5 DA VINCI ANDRES RODRIGUEZ ROBERT CASTRO: 0/65.198
6 CAETANO NICK SKELTON MONARCH INTERNATIONAL: 0/65.896
7 S & L WHAT NOU DARRAGH KERINS S&L FARM: 0/66.162
8 KEEP IT SIMPLE HANNAH ISOP TRACY FREELS: 0/67.546
9 OLMIFON D'AS LAURA KRAUT HAPPY HILL FARM: 0/68.604
10 GLOCONTO ANTONIO MAURER ANTONIO MAURER: 0/69.872
11 STAR POWER IAN MILLAR TEAM WORKS: 0/70.263
12 DONNA EVITA LAURA KRAUT THE FREEDOM GROUP: 0/70.664
Photo Credit: Ben Maher and Oscar won the $8,000 G&C Farm 1.45m Jumpers during week five at the 2011 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival. Ben Maher and Oscar with ringmaster Cliff Haines and Luis Miguel Martinez of G&C FarmPhoto © Sportfot, Official Sport Photographer of the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival, www.sportfot.com.