Ben Maher was given a standing ovation as he celebrated a breathtaking victory in the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Paris Presented by the City of Paris.
Maher’s victory catapulted him up the overall LGCT series ranking into second place on 132 points with Peder Fredricson still leading on 149 points. On form Edwina Tops-Alexander still sits in third within touching distance of Maher on 120.
Heavyweight Maher and his 10 year old Ginger-Blue triumphed in an electrifying three way jump-off on the spectacular stage of the Champ de Mars in front of the Eiffel Tower at the Longines Global Champions Tour - Longines Paris Eiffel Jumping.
Emotional after his win Maher said: “It feels incredible, it has been a great day here and it was a really hard Grand Prix, one of the hardest i’ve jumped recently. It is always great here with the crowd in Paris. Ginger-Blue really fought hard for me in the first round, she is a naturally fast horse, so I rode the jump-off without too many risks to put pressure on the other two.”
Talking about the enthusiastic equestrian fans Maher explained: “It seems strange, it is the first time we have jumped and had cheers and had that atmosphere that we have been missing for the past 18 months.”
With Maher has already qualified for the LGCT Super Grand Prix at the GC Prague Playoffs in November, the golden ticket was handed to second place Sameh El Dahan riding WKD Aimez Moi. The final spot on the podium was taken by young talent Jodie Hall McAteer who secured the biggest result of her career on Salt'n Peppa. After her incredible result Jodie said: “It is unbelievable, it is a dream come true. I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to compete at this level.”
The Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix played out in one of the most iconic backdrops for show jumping and the competition was fiercely hot in the sixth stage of the season.
As top sport got underway in the City of Lights, 34 combinations came forward to tackle Gregory Bodo’s testing 1.60m track. Watched by a full house for the first time this year the passionate crowds filled the grandstands along with international guests enjoying the fine dining and chic hospitality lounge.
It was soon clear how difficult the challenge was, halfway through the field there was only one clear on the board with the time allowed catching some of the biggest names in the sport out. Both Denis Lynch and Rodrigo Giestera Almeida finished agonisingly close to the jump-off with just one time fault.There was heartache for French fans as on form Edward Levy, Olivier Robert, Roger Yves Bost, Simon Delestre and Jeanne Sadran all picked up faults costing them a crucial place in the thrilling jump-off on home turf.
So it was a three way jump-off at the foot of the Eiffel Tower after a nail-biting first round full of drama and shock exits from the competition.
Looking for his second LGCT Grand Prix win of the season Ben Maher had a clear plan with Jane Clark’s Ginger-Blue. He kept his composure to put the pressure on the rest of the field and crossed through the finish line with a smooth clear, but in 39.35 seconds leaving the door open for the two riders still to come.
The crowd cheered as 21 year old Jodie Hall McAteer entered the arena for the biggest jump-off in her career to date. After an impressive first round clear, the young British talent had nothing to lose as she pushed hard to beat Olympic Champion Ben Maher. Clear up until the second to last fence she turned too tight on Salt'n Peppa and a refusal put them out of contention. They finished with 8 faults in a time of 47.55s. Brimming with pride at her achievement against a stellar international field, Jodie spoke of her “amazing” horse and of the tremendous opportunity for young talent like herself competing at the top level on the GCL and LGCT circuit.
It was a week to remember for Sameh El Dahan after a stunning performance in the GCL earlier on in the day to clinch third place with the Cannes Stars, he then had everything to play for going last in the jump-off. Aiming to repeat history from his LGCT Grand Prix of Paris win in 2018 he set off at a flat out gallop on WKD Aimez Moi. He was half a second faster at the split time before taking a massive risk with the tightest roll back at the penultimate fence but it came crashing down along with his hops for a victory today. Finishing in a faster time than Maher but with 4 fours the Egyptian rider had to settle for second place in 38.45s.
The Tour now looks to Monaco, just a short stop away from Paris, for the 7th round of action on the Championship race.