The third week of the 2018 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) ended with a victory for Olympic team gold medalist Ben Maher (GBR) riding Don Vito in the $35,000 Hollow Creek Farm 1.50m Classic on Sunday. WEF continues through April 1 at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington, FL, and offers more than $9 million in prize money.
The fourth week of WEF, sponsored by NetJets, runs March 31-February 4 and features the $15,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby “Hunt and Go” on Friday, February 2, at 12 p.m. in the International Arena, the $205,000 NetJets Grand Prix CSI 4* on Saturday, February 3, at 11 a.m. on the grass derby field at Equestrian Village (home to the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival), and the Great Charity Challenge, presented by Fidelity Investments®, on Saturday evening at 6:30 p.m. in the International Arena.
Ben Maher (GBR) & Don Vito
A total of 58 entries challenged a course designed by Peter Grant of Canada with 11 ultimately advancing to the jump-off. Returning half-way through the short course order, Maher thought he left an opportunity for someone in the talented field to bump him from the lead, but had done just enough to take the win in 39.61 seconds.
Fabio Leivas da Costa (BRA) was knocked from the top spot by fractions of a second, but held on for second place riding Tosca de l’Esque to a time of 39.72 seconds. Rounding out the top three, Jonathon Millar (CAN) piloted Daveau to third in 40.18 seconds. With five different countries represented in the top five placings, Catherine Tyree took fourth riding Enjoy Louis for the United States and Wilhelm Genn (GER) placed fifth aboard Bugatti.
“The time was tight with a lot of short distances, which suited Don Vito,” said Maher of the ten-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Quaprice Z x Jus de Pomme) owned by Poden Farms. “In the jump-off, there was one option inside to the original number three and I had a couple of looks when I went in and couldn’t make my mind up. Don Vito sometimes can get too sharp on the turn and then he turns too tight, so I decided to take the option to go around l thought I left the door open there, but fortunately today things went our way.”
Maher and his student, 19-year-old Emily Moffitt (GBR), have traded off riding Don Vito since the gelding joined Poden Farms’ string a year and a half ago. For Maher, the horse has allowed him to stay at the top level while developing younger horses or resting his top mounts.
“Don Vito has been a great horse for me,” said Maher, who will celebrate his 35th birthday on January 30. “I am very lucky because Poden Farms has some incredible horses right now. Emily is going to go back on him soon, but I have been lucky to ride him for the past eight to ten months.”
Maher’s win joins a string of successes for Poden Farms at WEF, including a win for Moffitt in the $75,000 Rosenbaum PLLC Grand Prix during week one and a second-place finish for fellow Poden Farms rider Emily Mason (GBR) in the $70,000 Marshall & Sterling Grand Prix CSI 2* during week two.
Ben Maher (GBR) & Don Vito Maher accompanied by ringmaster Steven Rector.
“I like being here at WEF where we can really spend time with the horses working on things rather than traveling to the shows,” said Maher. “This has been a lucky place for me; I have many good memories here and we have had a great start. The whole team is doing quite well!”
Also highlighting the Sunday schedule in the International Ring, Samantha Cohen piloted Carmen to a win in the $10,000 SJHOF High Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic, presented by Sleepy P Ranch, and Fabrizio Caffarena riding Hermoine Jean topped the $10,000 Medium Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic, presented by Equiline.
Source: Press Release by Jennifer Wood Media Inc. for ESP / WEF
Photos: © Sportfot