In what will be written as a page in the history books, and one for the ages, the invincible Ben Maher has been crowned the 2022 LGCT Champion of Champions. Making history taking the title for no more than the third time, he has catapulted himself into stardom.
Leaving no stone unturned in his journey to take the crown, Maher aboard his incredible Faltic HB jumped under the glittering stars of an Arabian night in the 15th and final leg of the 2022 Longines Global Champions Tour in the incredible Saudi Arabian capital city, Riyadh.
With a prize purse for the Championship and LGCT Grand Prix of Riyadh combined to over €1.6million, the best horse and rider combinations in the world turned out in force to put on a show of world class show jumping with a full house.
Talking about his phenomenal season victory Maher smiled: “It feels a little bit surreal. The whole Global Tour really pushed the sport to the next level over the past years and I’ve taken part in many legs and am thankful to be involved. It has been great sport with all the best horses and riders in the world here and Christian and Pieter really pushed it to the end."
Maher and Faltic HB jumped around the LGCT Grand Prix of Riyadh with an uncharacteristic 4 faults, yet when fellow Championship contenders Pieter Devos of Belgium and Christian Ahlmann of Germany both incurred 8 penalties, the enviable 2022 Champion of Champions title was handed to Maher by HH Prince Abdullah bin Fahad Al Saud - president of the Saudi Arabian Equestrian Federation.
Up against an incredible line-up of equine athletes, with the horsepower this week on another level Maher said: "It has been pretty stressful here this weekend with the pressure of the Championship, but it is an amazing show and my first time in Riyadh. I didn't win a Grand Prix this year which I don't think has ever been done before but my horses have been incredible all season, I have just not got the job done, couldn't be prouder right now though."
In the breathtaking display of top sport and entertainment, the Finals of the 2022 Longines Global Champions Tour season hit Riyadh for the first time ever. Set against unprecedented views, the 15-event Championship race came to its climax under lights in perfect weather conditions.
In what felt like a repeat from 2019, runner up to Maher in a LGCT Championship race yet again, Pieter Devos secured 2nd place in the 2022 standings, ultimately finishing 11 points behind the eventual winner. Speaking of his reliable and competitive partner, and wider team, Devos said: "I'm very proud of my horse Mom's Toupie de la Roque, this year she really pulled my string of horses with the results.
"Thank you a lot to my team, the people around the horse - the grooms, everybody. They are not in the spotlight but they have to travel all over the world, being ready for us all of the time. It was fantastic for them to share the podium with us tonight and be recognised with their own torphy's."
2022 Longines Global Champions Tour Final Overall Season Standings:
1. Ben Maher - GBR
2. Pieter Devos - BEL
3. Christian Ahlmann - GER
4. Malin Baryard-Johnsson - SWE
5. Jur Vrieling - NED
6. Daniel Deusser - GER
A sentiment echoed among the show jumping fraternity, Devos paid homage to the newly crowned LGCT 2022 Champion of Champions: "We must recognise a really true champion in Ben Maher, what he did again this year is truly fantastic".
LGCT President and Founder Jan Tops highlighted the calibre of competition: "It has been super exciting all season. It was down to the last round and we had great riders in contention. This is the highest level of sport you can see."
History was also made in the 4 rider jump-off of today's €900,000 LGCT Grand Prix of Riyadh where Michael Pender riding HHS Calais became the youngest person ever to win two LGCT Grand Pix in the same season.
The young talent smiled: "I can't quite believe it, it's incredible to win one of the biggest Grand Prix of the year and to do it in front of this crowd in Riyadh is brilliant. It's defiantly made me emotional, the horse gave everything today what an amazing experience. I can't thank everyone enough who made it possible, the whole team at home, behind the scenes and the people here putting on these life-changing shows for us."
As Pender was already quailfied for the LGCT Super Grand Prix he hands the final golden ticket down to former world number one Harrie Smolders after his stella double clear on Monaco round the biggest track this season. First to go in the jump-off Jur Vierling and the sensational Long John Silver set the standard keeping all the fences up once again but their pace left them in third place overall.
There was heartbreak for last to go Malin Bayard-Johnsson and the fierce H&M Indiana as they were almost a second faster than Pender but after risking it all the penultimate fence fell knocking them off the podium today.
With the 2022 Longines Global Champions Tour Champions of Champions named in podium and championship veterans Ben Maher, Pieter Devos and Christian Ahlmann, all eyes now look ahead to Prague, the Czech Republic capital for the ultimate final showdown of the year as each winner of the 15 legs come back for the €1.25 million Longines Global Champions Tour Super Grand Prix.
My vision is clear. Only the best for the best.