Ben Maher Qualifies for GCT Super Grand Prix

Ben Maher and Explosion W narrowly missed out on the GCT Grand Prix of Cascais win having been pipped to the post by his London Knights teammate Martin Fuchs (SUI) and Chaplin only hours after they won the GCL together earlier in the evening.

The win was a repeat performance of Madrid where London Knights won the GCL team competition and Fuchs went on to win the 1.60m LGCT Grand Prix qualifying him for the LGCT Super Grand Prix at the GC Playoffs in Prague. With Fuchs already qualified for the GC Playoffs it was second place Ben Maher who now gets his coveted ticket to the LGCT Super Grand Prix showdown.

Ecstatic after his victory Fuchs said: “I do love turf and my horse Chaplin is great in the big rings and was great again today. Luigi and my whole family are here and it is my mother’s birthday and I hope they are happy to see me win.”

Ben Maher finished second in the LGCT Grand Prix and continued his stealthy move up the ranking into third place and only three points behind Daniel Deusser (GER). Ireland’s Michael Duffy finished in third place in the LGCT Grand Prix of Cascais on Mullaghdrin Touch The Stars.

Stunning aerial images of the beautiful show ground in Cascais across to the spectacular Estoril coastline were beamed around the world as the action got underway for the 9th event of the 2019 LGCT series.

Frank Rothenberger’s course was one of the most technical and substantial of the 2019 season so far. The track inside the immaculate velvety grass arena took no prisoners and it was literally standing room only as the action got underway under floodlights. International guests including footballer Gonçalo Guedes, watched from the chic hospitality lounge and the President of the Republic of Portugal Rebelo Marcelo de Sousa was among fans watching the day unfold. 

Talking after the presentations Ben said “Explosion had a long rest after last year and it has just taken some time to get into form again. He’s fresh and under used so hopefully will keep going strong till the end [of the season]. I just need to get faster. I left too much space for Martin today. I watched the others go, I decided to take the risk and do the five – I think it was faster for the way my horse jumps. Martin kept going to the last, I had to swing wide but Martin at the moment is with Chaplin one of the best horse in the world. I qualified for the [LGCT] Super Grand Prix so it is a nice conciliation prize.”

Jump Off
The stage was set with a spectacular world class line up of 11 top combinations in the big showdown.

Christian Ahlmann and Clintrexo Z were first in but an early sharp turn to the LGCT oxer inflicted four faults in a quick time of 37.54. Darragh Kenny and Important de Muze were tight to the LGCT oxer and rolled back to the Longines double combination before a sweeping turn back to the lamp post vertical and a dash to the finish for a clear in 39.56. Niels Bruynseels and the short-striding Utamaro d’Ecaussines were quick from the start but despite drifting to the side during the combination they gave it their all and crossed the finish line clear but in 40.55. 

Next in was Mark McAuley and Utchan de Belheme but it was not to be their night as the back rail of the second part of the combination hit the ground leaving them on four faults in 40.36. Frenchman Julien Epaillard had a heart-breaking four faults at the very first fence on Virtuose Champeix and was tight to the LGCT oxer which fell bringing his score to 8 in 40.06. Bart Bles and Gin D continued to demonstrate their strong form. The pair were nail-bitingly close to the second fence but cleared it before sprinting round the rest of the track but not fast enogjuh as they finished in 41.08. Pieter Devos was in full focus and set on taking over the ranking lead. He rode Claire Z to a seemingly beautiful angle from the second fence to the third but the back rail of the LGCT oxer tumbled. He kept up the pace coming home in 38.76.

It was a high octane night and tension mounted as 2018 LGCT Champion Ben Maher and the explosive Explosion W entered the ring. They were in top gear out of the starting blocks but still managed to be careful to the oxer and the combination before releasing the handbrake to the penultimate upright and the final fence, stopping the clock in 38.09 and into the lead.

Michael Duffy and Mullaghdrin Touch The Stars were ahead at the mid section by around half a second but despite a massive effort they finished with a creditable clear but not fast enough at 38.58 putting them in third place. Marcus Ehning and Funky Fred set off in classic style racing to the second oxer and turning beautifully to the following LGCT oxer. They were tight to the double combination but cleared it smoothly and were up on Maher’s time. But Funky Fred clipped the rail of the penultimate vertical and they ended on four faults but in a super speedy 36.21.

It was only a few hours earlier that Maher and London Knights teammate Martin Fuchs had won the GCL team competition together and now they were locked in combat in the climax to the individual LGCT Grand Prix.

Fuchs and Chaplin raced over the turf from the word go and were soon ahead of Maher and Explosion W after a tight turn into the double combination. They were slightly wider to the penultimate upright but their dramatic dash to the final fence clinched it in 37.64 as the crowd rose to their feet to give a standing ovation.

The Championship now looks to Monaco next week, for the 10th round of action on the 2019 Championship – marking the midway point of the season.

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