Valkenswaard, The Netherlands – May 09, 2021 – The opening event of the season at Tops International Arena was received with great enthusiasm by the riders and it offered top-class sport to the viewers at home. The highlight of the first Spring Event, the €150,000 Grand Prix CSI 4*, was held on Sunday afternoon.
It was a wonderful conclusion to a great weekend. In the first round, 11 combinations managed to qualify for the jump-off. Swiss rider Bryan Balsiger (SUI) was the first to set a fast time with 12-year-old mare AK’s Courage. The next four combinations, Kevin Jochems (NED) on Turbo Z, Harrie Smolders (NED) with Bingo du Parc, Cian O’Connor (IRL) aboard Kilkenny and Gilles Thomas (Konak), could not improve that time.
It was Ben Maher (GBR) who rode a superb round with the Dutch Warmblood mare Ginger Blue (Plot Blue x Royal Bravour) and crossed the finish line 0.08 seconds faster, thereby taking over the lead. The last rider, Dutchman Marc Houtzager (NED), made a very serious bid for victory. He was faster, timed at 39.85 seconds, but at the cost of a fault on the very last obstacle. Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) finished third with Beauville Z (Bustique x Jumpy des Fontaines). A great result considering it was Beauville’s first competition after a period of rest.
Winner’s Circle – Ben Maher (GBR)
Maher was happy with his victory. “There was quite a big and rather tricky course with difficult distances. I often had to make an extra stride. Ginger Blue is very careful. She gave me a very good feeling in the first round and that gave me confidence for the jump-off. I did what I could and Ginger Blue is by nature a very fast horse. Everything went as it should. This is a nice boost for the coming season. It’s good to be back in Europe after spending a lot of time in America and great to be back in Valkenswaard. In the past, it hasn’t been the luckiest of places for me. Here on this new amazing grass arena, maybe things are changing for me.”
Final Results – €150,000 Grand Prix of Valkenswaard CSI 4*
1) Ben Maher (GBR) & Ginger Blue – 0 / 0 – 40.42
2) Bryan Balsiger (SUI) & Ak’s Courage – 0 / 0 – 40.50
3) Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) & Beauville Z – 0 / 0 – 40.66
Source: Press Release from TIA – Tops International Arena
Photo: © TIA – Tops International Arena