Maher stamps author­ity with Grand Prix win in Doha

Bri­tish rider, who had al­ready sealed the Global Cham­pi­ons Tour ti­tle, also wins the team ti­tle with Philip­paerts

Gulf Times Sport - - FRONT PAGE - By Sa­han Bi­dappa

Hav­ing al­ready sealed the Global Cham­pi­ons Tour ti­tle com­ing into the fi­nal leg in Doha, Ben Maher put a stamp on his dom­i­nance by sign­ing off the 2018 sea­son with a Grand Prix vic­tory at Al Shaqab yes­ter­day.

To top it off, the Bri­tish rider also led his team Lon­don Knights to over­all ti­tle in the Global Cham­pi­ons League af­ter he and Bel­gian rider Ni­cola Philip­paerts com­bined to fin­ish first in the fi­nal team com­pe­ti­tion.

But it was Maher’s vic­tory with his mount, nine-year-old stal­lion Ex­plo­sion W, in the €375.000 Grand Prix that stole the show as the spec­ta­tors mar­velled at their com­bi­na­tion. Maher had also rid­den Ex­plo­sion W in the team event ear­lier.

The team gold medal­list at the 2012 Lon­don Olympics, Maher had a dream sea­son, as he fin­ished with five Grand Prix triumphs. “I can’t quite take it in to be hon­est. I have such a good bond with Ex­plo­sion W,” the 35-year-old said, af­ter pock­et­ing a win­ner’s purse of €123,750.

Maher and Ex­plo­sion W were the last to go in the nine-rider jump-off and the two gal­loped at great pace to stop the clock in a win­ning time of 35.50

“It has been ab­so­lutely a great sea­son. I have such a good bond with my horse, which has been cre­ated in such a short pe­riod of time. He makes my life eas­ier. The jump-off didn’t go as planned but we got on well. He’s nat­u­rally fast. It has been a mas­sive rise for him. (He is) sim­ply a great horse,” Maher said.

“I got him when he was seven but I fi­nally had a ride with him in Shang­hai. He has been in­cred­i­ble. All credit to my team. It is not just me and the horse. There are a lot of peo­ple with a lot of ef­fort mak­ing us great on the field,” he added.

Now the Bri­tish rider will be go­ing in as one of the top favourites into the in­au­gu­ral €12 mil­lion GC Play­offs in Prague in December, where he will com­pete in the LGCT Su­per Grand Prix and the GCL Su­per Cup.

Such was Maher’s supremacy this sea­son that he took home €1 mil­lion in prize money in the in­di­vid­ual events only. He fin­ished a whop­ping 43 points ahead of last year’s cham­pion Har­rie Smol­ders, who put it out aptly when asked about Maher: “He was out of our league.”

Only 28 points separated sec­ond-place rider Al­berto Zorzi (237) and eighth-placed Chris­tian Ahlmann of Ger­many (209) yes­ter­day, set­ting up a high­high-pow­ered con­test among seven elite rid­ers fight­ing for the high­est spot pos­si­ble on the over­all rank­ing.

In the end, it would be the Nether­lands’ Smol­ders (run­nerup) and Philip­paerts (third) who would make it onto the over­all podium, with Italy’s Zorzi slip­ping to fourth.

In the jump-off, Swe­den’s Peder Fredric­son fin­ished sec­ond in the Grand Prix, set­ting a blis­ter­ing pace on Hans­son WL and com­ing home in 36.34 sec­onds.

Smol­ders and Don VHP Z were in top form again and match­ing Fredric­son’s time but just fell short to fin­ish in 36.94 sec­ond and take the third spot on the podium.

Last year’s Grand Prix win­ner Bassem Has­san Mo­hamed of Qatar was first to go with Gun­der. But the dynamic duo could not re­peat their heroic feat as they took out three fences and bowed out of the race early.

Ear­lier, in the team com­pe­ti­tion, Maher and Ex­plo­sion’s team­mates were Bel­gium’s Ni­cola Philip­paerts and her mount

H&M Chilli Willi, with both com­bi­na­tions rid­ing two clear rounds to edge out run­ners-up Mi­ami Celtics and third-place Rome Glad­i­a­tors.

For the over­all 2018 sea­son, the Knights topped Valkenswaard United and the Celtics.

RESULTS CSI5* 1.60m Ta­ble A: Against the Clock with Jump-Off

1. Ben Maher (GBR) Ex­plo­sion W. Time: 35.50 secs, Prize money: €123,750

2. Peder Fredric­son (SWE) Hans­son WL. 36.34 secs. €75,000

3. Har­rie Smol­ders (NED) Don VHP Z N.O.P. 36.94 secs. €56,250

Global Cham­pi­ons League of Doha sec­ond round

1. Lon­don Knights: Ni­cola Philip­paerts (H&M Chilli Willi) 74.36;

Ben Maher (Ex­plo­sion W) 70.33. To­tal time: 144.69 secs.

2. Mi­ami Celtics: Michael Duffy (Egalini) 1 penalty. 77.40; Jes­sica Spring­steen (RMF Swinny du Parc) 72.86. To­tal time: 150.26 secs

3. Rome Glad­i­a­tors: Laura Kraut (Zer­e­monie) 74.46; Lorenzo de Luca (Irenice Horta) 74.17. 4 penal­ties. To­tal time:148.63 secs.

PIC­TURE: AR al-Baker/HHOPL

Her High­ness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chair­per­son of Qatar Foun­da­tion for Ed­u­ca­tion, Sci­ence and Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment (QF), and HE Sheikh Joaan bin Ha­mad al-Thani, Pres­i­dent of Qatar Olympic Com­mit­tee, with the win­ners of the 2018 Longines Global Cham­pi­ons Tour at Al Shaqab in Ed­u­ca­tion City yes­ter­day. Bri­tain’s Ben Maher won the Global Cham­pi­ons Tour ahead of Har­rie Smol­ders of the Nether­lands and Ni­cola Philip­paerts of Bel­gium.

Bri­tain’s Ben Maher rides Ex­plo­sion W dur­ing the Global Cham­pi­ons League of Doha team event at Al Shaqab yes­ter­day. PIC­TURES: Lotfi Garsi

Lon­don Knights rid­ers Ben Maher of Bri­tain and Ni­cola Philip­paerts of Bel­gium lift the Global Cham­pi­ons League tro­phy yes­ter­day.

Doha Fur­san Qatar mem­bers Sheikh Ali bin Khalid al-Thani (sec­ond from left) and Bassem Mo­hamed (sec­ond from right) at Al Shaqab arena yes­ter­day. Doha Fur­san Qatar fin­ished fifth in the Global Cham­pi­ons League Doha round yes­ter­day.

QEF pres­i­dent Ha­mad bin Ab­dul­rah­man al-At­tiyah.

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