Week five of the 2013 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival (FTI WEF), sponsored by Adequan®, concluded on Sunday afternoon with a win for Olympic gold medalist Ben Maher of Great Britain aboard his young mount Quiet Easy 4 in the $25,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic. Maher has been a dominant force in Wellington over the last two weeks with back to back grand prix wins, including last night's $82,000 Adequan CSI 2* Grand Prix. He can now add a 1.50m victory to his tally for the winter.
Olympic course designer from Great Britain, Bob Ellis, set the track for forty-two entries to show in Sunday's 1.50m classic with just four entries advancing to the jump-off. Alongside Maher, U.S. Olympic gold medalists Beezie Madden and Laura Kraut joined the jump-off roster as well as Argentinean rider Max Amaya. Madden and Abigail Wexner's Mademoiselle were first to jump-off and had one rail down in a time of 49.775 seconds to finish third. Maher and Mrs. Phillips Quiet Easy 4 jumped next and set the unbeatable pace of 48.631 seconds with their clear round over the short course. Amaya and Avequest, LLC's Cartier jumped a clear round in 52.893 seconds to finish second. Kraut and Evita Group's Nouvelle were last to go and finished fourth with four faults in 51.185 seconds.
Maher has had several top placings with Quiet Easy since the start of the circuit, including a very close second place finish in this week's $33,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 5. Quiet Easy had some time off in 2012 while his rider focused on the summer Olympic Games, so Maher is now bringing him back to top form and this was the pair's first win of the winter season. "This has been a great week; all of the horses jumped well," Maher smiled on Sunday. "Quiet Easy was unlucky in the WEF on Thursday; we just got beat. It was a very fast jump-off, so to come back today and jump two good rounds after such a fast jump-off just shows his character. He is trying to always do the best he can for us. The jump-off was again quick today. He naturally turns very well and he is quick through the air. He almost didn't jump today because he jumped so well on Thursday, but he seems to enjoy this ring here, so I think it was the right decision."
Quiet Easy is a nine-year-old Oldenburg gelding by Quidams Rubin x Zapateado. Maher got him just before the FTI WEF circuit last year and started him in the 1.50m classes with a second place finish overall in the series last season. He hopes to continue that success this year. "He had a pretty quiet summer because of other commitments and things, so I jumped a lot of national classes. I sort of gave him a bit of a break and aimed to bring him back here," Maher noted. "It has really worked because he is jumping very well. He has been a pleasure to ride."
Sunday's class was a difficult one for a lot of the horses and riders entered. Maher credited fellow Brit Bob Ellis on his design. "It was a big course," Maher stated. "It was the first real class where we have had to jump the water. Both of my horses jumped it very big the first time in the season, but they have to see it at some point. The course progressively got bigger as it went on and I think the last line in particular got half of the class. It was a very long distance down from the Liverpool to the oxer and then a very short outside seven strides to a hard combination. I think most of the faults, from what I saw, came from there. Bob Ellis is a clever course builder. He knows what he's doing and the slightest angle on something here and there can make all of the difference."
Maher plans to show Quiet Easy again next week and will then give him a couple of weeks off while he heads to China to show in the Longines Hong Kong Masters with his top horse, Tripple X III.
Final Results: $25,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic
1. QUIET EASY 4 BEN MAHER MRS. PHILLIPS: 0/0/48.631
2. CARTIER MAX AMAYA AVEQUEST, LLC: 0/0/52.893
3. MADEMOISELLE BEEZIE MADDEN ABIGAIL WEXNER: 0/4/49.775
4. NOUVELLE LAURA KRAUT EVITA GROUP: 0/4/51.185
5. VOLTARAL PALO BLANCO ALVARO TEJADA ARRIOLA ISABEL TEJADA: 4/72.045
6. BELMONT LAURA KRAUT BEVERLY WIDDOWSON: 4/74.206
7. ANY GIVEN SUNDAY DARRAGH KENNY HAYS INVESTMENT CORP: 4/74.383
8. DOLORES BEN MAHER MRS. WANG: 4/74.818
9. DIKTATOR VAN DE BOSLANDHOEVE SHANE SWEETNAM SPY COAST FARM, LLC: 4/74.870
10. CASHA ABIGAIL MCARDLE OLD BARRRINGTON, LLC: 4/75.187
11. GAME READY CONOR SWAIL SUSAN GRANGE: 4/75.383
12. URBAN BLYTHE MARANO RIVERVIEW FARM, LLC: 4/75.930
Source: press release Jennifer Wood Media Inc.
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