An enthusiastic full house urged Olympic team gold medalist Ben Maher to a second success in the Alltech Christmas Puissance, at Olympia on Thursday night.
After going head-to-head with Britain’s top female rider Laura Renwick in round four, only Maher attempted the wall for a fifth and final time. His rival decided to bow out of trying to claim the win herself, leaving him to the victory whatever the outcome in the final round.
“My horse (Roller Coaster) has already finished second in a speed class today and he has to jump again tomorrow,” said Renwick. “That was the best I’ve ever felt competing in a puissance, so I went out on a good note.”
Maher, jumping Noctambule Courcelle, his winning partner two years ago, looked as though he was going to complete with a clean sheet. But the big chestnut gelding tapped one of the very top bricks of the enormous 2.15m (7ft 1in) obstacle with his back hooves. The block swayed for a few moments before dropping to the floor, but it didn’t matter, as Maher had won.
“I thought he had cleared it, so he was a bit unlucky,” Maher said. “But it’s been a really great night with an amazing atmosphere.”
Maher was partnering Noctambule Courcelle for the first time in six months here. “He was sold to Elaine and Michael Anderson and they have been doing all sorts with him, including side-saddle high jump classes, hunting and normal show jumping classes,” Maher said.
“They are here tonight, so it’s been really good for them. I probably won’t see the horse again until about this time next year.”
The route to the win had a few hiccups along the way. Maher had bent his thumb right back in the collecting ring before going in for the first round and then didn’t get it quite right in the ring.
“He’s very excitable and I let him have too much of a run to the wall,” said Maher, who was eliminated in round one last year.
“I was a few feet further away on takeoff than I wanted to be, so I didn’t give him such a long run in the following rounds.
“As for the thumb, it definitely went back a lot further than it’s supposed to!”
Britain’s Guy Williams riding Richi Rich was third, with Italian rider Luca Maria Moneya fourth on Quova de Vains.