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Fourth time’s the charm for Ben Maher in the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final at CHI Geneva

Saturday, 11 December 2021
CHI Geneva 2021

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ
The winners of the 20th edition of the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final: Ben Maher and Explosion W. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

 

Text © World of Showjumping

 


 

The 20th edition of the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final took place at CHI Geneva on Friday night with reigning Olympic Champions Ben Maher and the incredible 12-year-old Explosion W taking the coveted title and trophy. 

The atmosphere was electric at Palexpo as the very best in the world battled it out over two rounds set at 1.65m, with course design by Gerard Lachat (SUI) and Louis Konickx (NED). Kevin Staut on Toledo de Mescam Harcour (Mylord Carthago x Kouglof II) opened the Top 10 Final with a stylish round, but a pole fell on the penultimate fence. Jérôme Guery (BEL) on Quel Homme de Hus (Quidam de Revel x Candillo) posted the first clear round of the night, followed by Ben Maher (GBR) on Explosion W (Chacco-Blue x Baloubet de Rouet). Both Steve Guerdat (SUI) on Victorio des Frotards (Barbarian x Prince Ig’Or) and Kent Farrington (USA) on Austria 2 (Casall x Corrado I) were caught by the blue plank on fence number nine, while Scott Brash (GBR) on Hello Jefferson (Cooper vd Heffinck x Irco Mena) had an unfortunate rail on the last fence down after a picture perfect round. While Martin Fuchs (SUI) on Chaplin (Verdi TN x Concorde) picked up eight faults, Henrik von Eckermann (SWE) on King Edward (Edward 28 x Feo) and Daniel Deusser (GER) on Killer Queen VDM (Eldorado v. Zeshoek x For Pleasure) delivered clear rounds. After world no. one Peder Fredricson (SWE) on Catch Me Not S (Cardento 933 x Ramiro’s Son) was caught out by the red plank, the starting order for the second round was set with the riders on a clean sheet coming in last. 

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ
On the podium in the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final: Ben Maher, Henrik von Eckermann and Jérôme Guery. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

With three left to jump in the second round, reigning Olympic team gold medallists Henrik von Eckermann and King Edward were holding on to the lead after an incredible performance with another clear round in a time of 51.16 seconds. The Swedish rider's round put serious pressure on the remaining three riders, and when Daniel Deusser's Killer Queen VDM threw in a surprise refusal on the second fence, the podium was secured for von Eckermann. 

However, with Maher and his lightning-fast chestnut gelding to come next, von Eckermann had to watch nervously from the side-line. Opting to not take the tightest possible rollback turn to the third fence, Maher trusted the huge stride of his Olympic Champion, and when the clock stopped on 49.57, the pair took over the lead and pushed von Eckermann and King Edward down to the runner-up position. As last to go, Belgium’s Jérôme Guery had nothing to lose in his first ever Top 10 Final. The risk proved costly though, as the wall went into pieces – leaving him third behind Maher and von Eckermann.

“I knew before going in, that it would not be possible to beat them, because they were really fast,” Olympic team bronze medallist Guery commented. “But of course, I try! I took a lot of risk – too much risk to the wall – but that does not change so much, because even if clear, I could not have beaten them. I am happy to be in the third place, to take part of this amazing class with top riders and I am really proud of my horse and all of my team. I am really happy to be here tonight.”

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ
Runners-up: The fantastic pair Henrik von Eckermann and King Edward. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“At the moment, Henrik is really on form with King Edward,” Maher complimented his rival. “It was an advantage to go after him today. I was a little bit concerned because of the tight turn to the third fence that Henrik did; it did not suit me at all, so I made the decision to go around and really had to push for the time. So he did put me under a lot of pressure tonight.”

And just that had been von Eckermann’s game plan. “I tried to put pressure on Ben as much as I could,” the Swede explained afterwards. “But I also knew that if Ben was clear, he would be faster. I don’t like to be second, but today to be honest I couldn’t beat him, he was too fast. Even if I would have come in after him, I would not be faster. So, I am really happy.”

“Growing up, this is a competition I watched, and I always dreamed to be at this level,” Maher said about taking yet another big victory in what has been an incredible year for the British rider “I have been very lucky in the past years to compete in the Top 10 Final, but it has not been such a lucky class for me actually. One time I was third, many years ago. And then you start to wonder, if it is just a bad competition for you. But with a horse like Explosion, life becomes a little bit easier every day. I trust him and I have a great team around me to make it possible, and we always push to be better. Fortunately, in sport things went my way this evening, but while we are here, I think it is important to thank the IJRC for the support of this competition and Rolex as well, for helping improve the sport, pushing the sport forward and bringing big prize money and the top horse-and-rider combinations in the world together for this exhibition class.”

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ
Third on the podium: Jérôme Guery and Quel Homme de Hus, that also have had a fantastic 2021. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“It is great for the sport that we have these great horses, these personalities that people come to watch,” Maher said about the rivalry between Explosion W and King Edward, who have been going head-to-head in the past months. “At the last shows, Henrik has been pushing me to be better and to improve, and that is what sport is about. Once or twice, he has beaten me and finally I get to come back ahead, but I think we are all just pushing to be better with our horses. I am very lucky with my horse; I would not change him for any horse in the world. I genuinely believe I am very lucky and that I have the best horse.”

Maher made sure to point out how his support team plays a huge part in the success. “My owners are here to watch this evening and without them I would not be have been able to ride Explosion in the past years,” he said. “Here for this Top 10 class, they are doing an amazing job to give the grooms – the important ones behind the scenes – the limelight and my groom Cormac in particular is a little bit shy, so it is good to push him up to the podium to hold the trophy. He has been with me since he was sixteen, so he has grown up together with me and it is really special for me to see him take big moments like this. It wouldn’t be possible without him. Right now, Explosion will be back in the stables, getting spoiled with Cormac and his owners.”



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