In Ramatuelle / St.Tropez, at stage 5 of the Longines Global Champions Tour, all eyes are on Ben Maher who makes a return to the tour after claiming a historical 3rd Longines Global Champions Tour Championship Title in Riyadh last year. Maher not only wrote history as the first rider to win 3 LGCT Championship Titles, the 40-year-old is the first rider in 16 seasons to be crowned champion without winning a single LGCT Grand Prix in that season.
Is there life without Explosion W?
So how did he do it and what was Explosions role in the 3rd title?
In Maher’s previous championship fights Explosion W was crucial. In the 2018 season the big chestnut won 3 Grand Prix, shooting him into show jumping stratosphere and levelling with stars like Hello Sanctos and Casall ASK. More impressive than the 2 other stars is that Explosion W did it again in 2019, again putting his name on 3 stage trophies. No other horse won 3 Grand Prix in consecutive seasons.
Maher won the St Tropez stage in 2018 on Winning Good but that was the only result, counting for the championship that was produced by a horse other than Explosion W. Concona added 2 counting scores in the Brit’s 2019 campaign, outperforming Pieter Devos for a first time.
But the 2022 title came to him in a different, much more unexpected fashion. As said already, Maher did not win a single LGCT Grand Prix with a 2nd place in Rome as his season best result. At the historic Circo Massimo he was 0,67sec too slow to keep Christian Kukuk from winning his 1st ever LGCT Grand Prix. In fact, Maher only podiumed twice, coming 3rd in Cannes at the Stade des Hesperides behind Daniel Deusser and runner-up Spencer Smith.
So how did Maher win that 3rd title, one might wonder. Rather than dominating the season with big and powerful wins, Maher gently led a new horse into the topflight. Another Dutch-bred. A horse called Faltic HB.
Having arrived in Ben’s stable at the very end of 2021 and being produced by Ireland’s Eoin Gallagher, the stallion needed less than 4 months to get into the jump-off in Miami and record the first championship points that would lead to the 3rd title.
With unlucky rail in Mexico, where he posted the fastest time Faltic did not win a LGCT Grand Prix in Explosion’s style.
But his statistics of jumping 8 Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix, going clear in 4 of them, never having more than 1 fence down and landing on the podium twice on double clears make Faltic HB a force not to be underestimated. He may not have made the big wave his chestnut stablemate makes but 7 of the 8 counting results last year were produced by the son of Baltic VDL, making him the most valuable Grand Prix horse of the 2022 season.
What about 2023?
Ironically it seems that Ben Maher’s team of horse is stronger than ever before. Explosion W has returned in full fitness, Faltic has travelled to St. Tropez with high ambitions, Ginger-Blue has landed in Europe after spending 2022 in the USA and new Grand Prix horses like Dallas Vegas Batilly and Exit Remo give Maher arguably the strongest firing power of the field.
His own shoulder injury kept Maher sidelined over the winter, missing the first 4 LGCT stages, but with 11 LGCT Grand Prix's still to jump, no one will be surprised to see Big Ben battle for the championship come the final stages.