Bishops Stortford rider Ben Maher claims explosive Global Champions Tour win in €300,000 Grand Prix at Royal Hospital Chelsea

British Olympian Ben Maher scored an emphatic victory on home turf on 3rd August to claim the LGCT Grand Prix of London, presented by Tennor, in front of an enthusiastic sell-out crowd in front of the stunning Royal Hospital Chelsea backdrop.

Riding the exceptionally talented 10-year-old gelding Explosion W in the spectacular Thames-side arena, Ben sailed over Alan Wade’s challenging courses clear in an unassailable 35.98 seconds.

Of the four clears in the 12-strong jump-off, his was the only one under 36 seconds. It marked the popular rider’s first grand prix win of the season.

“The best win is to win at home,” said a delighted Ben, who was quick to praise his mount. “To ride probably the best horse in the world is an incredible feeling. Explosion and I started the year a little slower this year and he’s had two GCT seconds, but I took all of the risks today. He felt incredible and deserved this win.”

The action was watched by appreciative fans and spectators under perfect conditions, with guests including Rory Bremner and the TV news anchor Alastair Stewart, who said: “The Global Champions Tour is the absolute zenith of a sport I adore. I’m here for The Brooke equine charity.”

Ben’s win elevates him to second place on the current overall 2019 LGCT ranking behind the leader, Belgium’s Pieter Devos. As Ben has already qualified for the LGCT Super Grand Prix at the GC Playoffs in Prague in November, the golden ticket passed down to second-placed Shane Sweetnam. The Irish rider went second in the jump-off on the lovely grey gelding Alejandro, setting the bar high with a clear round in 37.44 seconds that only one rider could surpass.

Another Irishman rounded out the podium, with last-to-go Darragh Kenny riding a beautifully judged round on the inexperienced Classic Dream, who at 9-years-old, was the youngest horse in the entire starting field of 34. Niels Bruynseels (BEL) and Jenson van’t Meulenhof was the fourth and final double clear round, while the Canadian Eric Lamaze came agonisingly close to the podium with a fast round in 37.35 seconds as the penultimate to jump. But as the back rail of final fence clattered to the sand, his hopes of challenging for the lead were dashed and he finished fifth.

The only other British rider in the jump-off, Robert Whitaker on Catwalk IV, had to settle for eighth place after lowering the vertical fence after the double combination. In the first round, it was the delicate triple combination that provoked the most issues, and the time allowed of 71 seconds also claimed victims, prevented some talented combinations from progressing into the hotly contested jump-off.

The Chelsea Pensioners – whom the LGCT have been fundraising for -took part in the prize-giving ceremonies, while the horses were flanked by members of the Household Cavalry to add to the equestrian spectacle. Ben’s victory – which handed him total €99,000 of the €300,000 prize-fund for the class – brings the British tally at the London leg of the LGCT to five: he has now won it twice, and compatriot Scott Brash has donned the winner’s sash a remarkable three times. He couldn’t repeat the feat this time, as he and Hello Mr President lowered a fence in the first round.

Photo: Lewis Harding Photography