Ben Maher has been unstoppable lately and added another victory to his tally with a win in Sunday afternoon's $84,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic at the FTI WEF. The class was held on the grass derby field at The Stadium at the PBIEC with 53 entries over the Olaf Petersen, Jr. (GER) designed course. Petersen saw ten clear rounds to advance to the jump-off with six double clear rounds. Maher was once again the winner, this time with a new mount in Tatiana Korsakova's Diva II. The pair jumped the fastest track without fault in 43.20 seconds for the win.
Ian Millar (CAN) and Team Works' Star Power finished second in 43.70 seconds. Daniel Bluman (COL) and Alberto & Ricardo Simhon's Apardi placed third in 44.25 seconds.
Diva II is a nine-year-old Anglo European mare by Kannan x Berlioz that Maher got at the beginning of December. Tatiana Korsakova had previously owned a horse for Maher that got injured and decided to buy him, "a horse to have some fun with," as the rider explained. "I chose Diva and I said that she could be a fun horse, and she seems like she's working out well right now. I had already tried the horse beforehand for somebody else and that didn't come of anything. I always thought the horse was talented. She was with Liz and Ted Edgar in England. They bred her and they had her her whole life, so she has been very well brought up and looked after."
"She had not done a lot for her age," Maher continued. "She was still in the 1.35m division towards the end of last year. Week one or two here, we were in the back ring in the schooling jumpers and she was jumping high and I was having to ride hard because of the shadows and everything, and she has just gradually improved more and more. She has been clear in a couple of 'WEFs' and things in the last two weeks with one or two down in the jump-off when I've gone quick, just where she's not ready. Today I took a chance again because the prize money is so big, and some parts didn't feel so comfortable. In the double we came very hard in on the angle and kind of swerved around a little bit, but luckily it paid off today."
Maher trained with Liz and Ted Edgar for almost two years as a working student, starting when he was 16 years old, before moving on to work with Beat Mändli. He knew that Diva had a great upbringing and saw the mare's potential.
"They know a good horse, and they really believed in this horse all along," he stated. "I think she has a way to go yet; we are only kind of halfway there. She needs to gain a lot of experience, but she's a real mare, she's a fighter and she's always feels like she wants to win as well, which I love in a horse."
This was the second win in two days showing on the grass for Maher after he topped Saturday's $50,000 Live Oak Grand Prix CSI-W 2* in Ocala as well. He noted the refreshing atmosphere of the beautiful derby field in Wellington.
"It has been a great change. We took Aristo up to Chester Weber's Live Oak to support that show yesterday and it was a great arena and grass field, as is this one. It is slightly different here; it's a lot bigger in Wellington, which suited Diva actually. It is just nice; it's great to have a change from the sand arena. Diva in particular hasn't jumped here, but I did jump one class with her on a field, so I knew she was okay on grass. She needed to jump on grass to see if she was comfortable and she certainly felt fine today, so it is nice to know that we have all those options when we go back to Europe now for what shows we will go to. I think everybody loves the atmosphere over here. It is slightly more relaxed, more space for the horses, and the more they can use this arena, the better it will be over here I think."
Maher looks forward to progressing with Diva after they head back to Europe in a few weeks after all of the horses take a break in April. "We have gone slow with her during the circuit; we just kept her behind the others," he explained. "Obviously I am in a very lucky position that I don't need to rush her. I think she will probably be done for circuit now. Maybe we were going to do one class next week, but maybe we are better to quit while we're ahead. All my horses will pretty much take April off and start up again in May. They have worked very hard for the last few months, so they all deserve a rest."
Final Results: $84,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic
1. DIVA II: 2005 AES mare by Kannan x Berlioz
BEN MAHER (GBR), Tatiana Korsakova: 0/0/43.20
2. STAR POWER: 2001 KWPN gelding by Quick Star
IAN MILLAR (CAN), Team Works: 0/0/43.70
3. APARDI: 2005 KWPN stallion by Corland x Kannan
DANIEL BLUMAN (COL), Alberto & Ricardo Simhon: 0/0/44.25
4. EGANO VAN HET SLOGENHOF: 2004 BWP gelding by Electro x Nagano
EIKEN SATO (JPN), Stephex Stables: 0/0/44.67
5. SHORAPUR: 2005 Hanoverian mare by Stakkato Gold x Drosselklang II
KEVIN BABINGTON (IRL), Shorapur LLC: 0/0/44.73
6. UNEX OMEGA STAR: 2002 Irish Sport Horse gelding by Quick Star x Quatoubet du Rouet
TIM GREDLEY (GBR), Unex Competition Yard: 0/0/44.74
7. CITIZENGUARD MILLION DREAMS: 2005 Westphalian mare by Diamant de Semilly x Concetto
RODRIGO PESSOA (BRA), Alain Van Campenhoudt: 0/4/41.87
8. MIMOSA: 2004 Swedish Warmblood mare by Cardento x Quite Easy
SHANE SWEETNAM (IRL), Sweet Oak & Spy Coast Farms: 0/4/44.29
9. SOUTHWIND VDL: 1999 KWPN gelding by Baloubet du Rouet x Ahorn
TIFFANY FOSTER (CAN), Artisan Farms, LLC: 0/4/44.94
10. SOLERINA: 1999 Irish Sport Horse mare by Cruising x Diamond Lad
SHANE SWEETNAM (IRL), Sweet Oak & Spy Coast Farms: 0/8/43.22
11. QUIZ: 2004 Selle Francais gelding by For Pleasure x Laudanum
DARRAGH KENNY (IRL), Spruce Meadows: 4/75.19
12. SANS SOUCIS Z: 2003 Zangersheide gelding by Surrealist v/h Paradijs x Voltaire
DARRAGH KENNY (IRL), Caroline Lloyd: 4/76.74
Source: Press release from Jennifer Wood Media Inc.
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