Wellington, FL - February 22, 2012 - Great Britain's Ben Maher finished first and second in today's $32,000 G&C Farm 1.45m Classic aboard his horses Tackeray and Quiet Easy 4, both owned by Mrs. Emma Phillips. Held as a Rolex FEI world ranking competition, the class was the feature event on Wednesday as the seventh week of the 2012 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) got underway.
Sponsored by Fidelity Investments®, week seven will host the $100,000 Fidelity Investments® Grand Prix CSI 3* on Saturday, February 25, at 7 p.m. Other highlights include the $15,000 Artisan Farms Young Rider Grand Prix on Friday, February 24, at 7 p.m. and the $32,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic on Sunday, February 26, at 1 p.m.
Today's 1.45m class featured 57 horse and rider combinations from 16 different nations competing over a speed course set by Olaf Petersen, Jr. of Germany. Nineteen entries cleared the course without fault and battled against the clock. Maher took the first place prize with Mrs. Phillips' twelve-year-old KWPN stallion Tackeray (Quick Star x Sandro), stopping the clock in 60 seconds flat. Maher captured the second position aboard Mrs. Phillips' eight-year-old Oldenburg gelding Quiet Easy 4 (Quidam's Rubin x Zapateado), with a time of 60.36 seconds.
"It was a good class. I've got a big bill here, so I have to start trying to win some money," Maher laughed after the class. "I have been bringing the horses on slowly the last few weeks, getting used to the newer ones. It was a nice course; not too big. They left a lot of options to leave strides out in certain places and I don't know, the course just suited me I guess."
"Tackeray I have had for six months now; he is a useful horse," Maher stated. "He jumped the World Cup and then we dropped him down. There is a good variety of classes that he is capable of being good in."
"Quiet Easy is a horse that we have had for three years now since he was five years old. He was with a girl at home riding and doing all of the young horse classes, so this is my first show with him here in Florida. She gave him a great education, then when he was eight it was always the plan that he would come to me and I would bring him o. It is looking like he is going to be very useful," Maher explained.
Finishing in third, Darragh Kenny (IRL) and Kerry Anne LLC's Gama Chamaco crossed the timers in 60.81 seconds. Eric Lamaze (CAN) and Wang Chung M2S, owned by Morningside Stud and Torrey Pine Stables, finished fourth in 60.93 seconds. Pablo Barrios (VEN) and G&C Flash, owned by Gustavo Mirabal, finished in 61.51 seconds for fifth place. Darragh Kenny and Windward Farm's Lipton De L'Othain rounded out the top six with their time of 62.32 seconds.
Maher was pleased with his young mounts today and plans to bring out his top horses during the week as the competition advances. Maher's greatest Olympic Games prospect, Tripple X III, just arrived in Florida and jumped clear in this morning's $6,000 Spy Coast Farm 1.40m Power and Speed class in his first time showing outdoors for the year. The pair most recently finished fifth in the World Cup Qualifier in Zurich, Switzerland.
"I am going to build him up here. They want me to jump the Nations Cup. It wasn't in my original plan, but we need to try and get on a winning roll with our team I think, so we need to try hard early," Maher said. "Tripple X is the one I am aiming hopefully for London. He has a very strict plan between now and the selection. Then Robin Hood is here. He is doing the 1.30m classes. My plan is to build him up slowly. He might do the class on the grass week ten and then hopefully the Tampa American Invitational. He is in the background there, but I am lucky that I have some amazing horses at the moment. I am enjoying it."
G&C Farm has continued their generous sponsorship of the 1.45m Jumper division throughout the FTI WEF circuit this year and will host more Rolex FEI ranking classes as the season progresses. The classes are part of an initiative to add more world ranking classes to the FTI WEF schedule.
As a top international competitor, Maher is happy to see the show making an effort to hold more ranking classes and commented on the excellent competition seen this morning.
"I think it is great. I think they need more of them like this," he stated. "There are so many people here. It is one of the best shows in the world, it just needs a few alterations with the schedule maybe, but it is always nice to be here. You can see how many riders are trying hard already this morning compared to the classes that are not ranking. You get the bigger names all coming out trying hard to win, so it is better sport."
Lauren Hough (USA) was a double winner today in the International Arena. She rode OhLaLa to the win in the $6,000 Spy Coast Farm 1.40m class out of 65 entries, then came back in the second $6,000 Spy Coast Farm 1.40m class to win with Z Canta, owned by Pasmore Stables. David McPherson (GBR) and Silver Spring won the final Spy Coast Farm 1.40m class of the day.
The seventh week of the 2012 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival will continue tomorrow with a full schedule of hunter and jumper competition. In the International Arena, the $32,000 WEF Challenge Cup Round 7 will be held at 1 p.m. The WEF Open Hunter 3' division will present championship honors in the Rost Arena in the morning.
Final Results: $32,000 G&C Farm 1.45m Classic
1. TACKERAY: 2000 KWPN stallion by Quick Star x Sandro BEN MAHER (GBR), Mrs. Phillips: 0/60.00
2. QUIET EASY 4: 2004 Oldenburg gelding by Quidam's Rubin x Zapateado BEN MAHER (GBR), Mrs. Phillips: 0/60.36
3. GAMA CHAMACO: 2004 Silla Argentina gelding by Carpe Diem Z x Atlantus Z DARRAGH KENNY (IRL), Kerry Anne LLC: 0/60.81
4. WANG CHUNG M2S: 2003 KWPN stallion by Royal Bravour x Ahorn ERIC LAMAZE (CAN), Morningside Stud & Torrey Pine Stables: 0/60.93
5. G&C FLASH: 2002 Hanoverian gelding by Forrester x Grannus PABLO BARRIOS (VEN), Gustavo Mirabal: 0/61.51
6. LIPTON DE L'OTHAIN: 1999 SFB gelding by Kashmir Van Schuttershof x Prince Du Logis DARRAGH KENNY (IRL), Windward Farm: 0/62.32
7. FATALIS FATUM: 1995 Hanoverian stallion by For Pleasure x Espri DANIEL BLUMAN (COL), Daniel Bluman: 0/62.72
8. ZHIVAGO: 2003 KWPN gelding by No Limit x Kigali BEEZIE MADDEN (USA), Abigail Wexner: 0/64.44
9. RAMINA: 2001 Holsteiner mare by Corrado 1 x Maikater 1 KEVIN BABINGTON (IRL), Alexandra Bartlett: 0/64.68
10. SYRAH: 2003 Warmblood mare by Baloubet Du Rouet x Unknown MOLLY ASHE-CAWLEY (USA), Dunkeld Associates: 0/66.83
11. EXQUIS WALNUT DE MUZE: 1999 BWP gelding by Nabab de Reve x Chin Chin HARRIE SMOLDERS (NED), Team Exquis: 0/67.22
12. UNIQUE IX: 2001 KWPN gelding by Heartbreaker x Vasco TINA FLETCHER (GBR), Lady Harris & Lady Kirkham: 0/67.73
Photo Credit: Quiet Easy 4 and Ben Maher; Tackeray and Ben Maher in their winning presentation with ringmaster Cliff Haines and Maria Schaub of G&C Farm Photos © Sportfot, Official Sport Photographer of the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival, www.us.sportfot.com.