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Outstanding performance gives Ben Maher the win in the Longines GCT Grand Prix in London

Saturday, 08 June 2013

Ben Maher and Cella took home the win in London. Photos by Hanne Christensen. The Brits were strong in force in the jump-off in the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix in London on Saturday, and best of them all was Ben Maher who delivered three outstanding rounds on the fantastic Cella (Cento x Chin Chin). With no less than five British riders out of ten overall in the jump-off it was a good chance that the win would end up with one of the home riders, and they all did their very best to please the London crowds – ending up with four riders in the top five; Nick Skelton was second on the power house Big Star (Quick Star x Nimmerdor), while William Funnel was fourth on Billy Congo (Vechta x Animo) and Scott Brash – another rider from the gold winning British Olympic team – ended fifth on Hello Sanctos (Quasimodo V. Molendreef x Nabab de Reve).

With 18 clears in the first round the game was on for the second round, and there were so many great names and horses moving on to round two that it was almost too good to be true. Equestrian super stars like Cella, Big Star, Taloubet Z, Winningmood, Cedric and Cevo Itot du Chateau were all part of it – and secured a very exciting second part of the competition. The track in round two consisted of twelve fences, and included a triple combination at 7ab and c – as well as a combination at 11a and b.Runner-up Nick Skelton on Big Star.

The first clear came from Laura Kraut and the bouncy grey Cedric (Chambertin x Carolus I), who made it all look like a walk in the park. Then followed world number one Christian Ahlmann on the incredible Taloubet Z (Galoubet A x Polydor), who was as good as picture perfect around Uliano Vezzani’s track. Then came clears from yesterday’s winner Patrice Delaveau and Lacrimoso HDC (Landjunge x Cascavelle), William Funnel on the British bred stallion Billy Congo, Henrik von Eckermann on Gotha FRH (Goldfever x Prestige Pilot), Scott Brash on Hello Sanctos, Luciana Diniz on the lovely Winningmood (Darco x Cassini), Madrid-winner Michael Whitaker on the more unconvential Viking (Jacomar x Almox Prints), Nick Skelton on the amazing Big Star and Ben Maher on the incredible Cella.

It was all set for a very exciting and fast jump-off, and as one rider after the other delivered – top sport was secured for all to watch. What went down in London was simply amazing, and the best of the best when it comes to what this sport has to offer. It was Laura Kraut who opened the jump-off for the US, and she had no choice but to give it all a great big go with such fast riders behind her. Her effort came on the expense of a pole down though.

Third placed Christian Ahlmann on Taloubet Z. Christian was next, and in his usual way he produced a great clear on Taloubet Z – getting perfect turns all the way – especially to the third last vertical as well as keeping the pace up all the way. His time really looked like the winning one at 31.86 seconds, and it was no doubt that it would be very hard to beat considering that this couple is definitely one of the very best in the world. The next riders all tried, and although they did their best neither Patrice or William could do anything about Christian’s time – William slotted into a temporarily second though on his beautiful black stallion. Henrik had two down, while Scott rode a terrific round on Hello Sanctos – with the home crowds cheering him on as he crossed the finish line on a time of 32.44 seconds after a great run to the last. Luciana also gave it a go, and was clear – eventually ending 6th and taking over the overall lead in the tour after great results in all four legs. Michael had the b-element in the combination down though, and was out of contest for a top result.

It was up to the two last riders to make it a home win. The top three in London!And they both went all in to secure it. Nick Skelton’s round was breathtaking, as he kept on pushing the clock on Big Star – who is simply a horse out of this world. Nick came spot on into the combination and the next vertical, and then on a flying stride into the penultimate oxer racing down to the last and taking over the lead by the tiniest of margins at 31.85! The crowds went wild, and it looked like Nick had nailed it. That was not the case though as Ben had other thoughts on Jane Clark’s Cella; the stylish rider set the mare in top gear as he started off and kept it moving all the way – getting his stride and hit to the penultimate oxer just perfect and then raced down to the last shaving off no less than an incredible 1.27 on Nick’s time and getting the home crowds more than value for their money!

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