Wellington, Florida, USA – January 23, 2022 – Week two of the 2022 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF), presented by Hygain Feeds, concluded with victory on the Derby Field at Equestrian Village for 2020 Olympic individual gold medalist Ben Maher (GBR) and longtime partner Tic Tac, owned by Jane Forbes Clark, in the $140,000 Hygain Feeds Grand Prix CSI 3*.
Equestrians from across the globe made their way to both the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) and Equestrian Village to participate in another top week of various hunter, jumper, and equitation competitions. In addition to WEF’s normal venue at PBIEC, week two allowed international jumper riders the first opportunity to familiarize themselves with the turf at Equestrian Village, which will make an appearance in several more weeks throughout the circuit.
Oscar Soberon (USA) designed an elegant track with a variety of questions including one double and one triple combination for the 46 entries to conquer in the first round. At the completion of the long track, nine combinations were kept out of podium contention by only a single downed rail while 6 only had trouble with time. Ireland’s Paul O’Shea (IRL) was the first to put forth a clear effort followed quickly by Eduardo Pereira de Menezes (BRA) which ensured a jump-off. By the halfway point, only five pairings had managed to successfully navigate around all obstacles fault-free. Canada’s Amy Millar (CAN) was the first female rider to add her name to jump-off contention, but Ashley Vogel (USA) was quick to contribute to evening out the field.
In total, 11 nations were represented in the overall field, but Ireland gave themselves a fair chance at the victory as Friday’s $37,000 Adequan® WEF Challenge Cup Round Two winner Eoin McMahon (IRL) added himself to the list. Ultimately, 13 of the original 46 contestants managed to successfully answer all of Soberon’s questions, and the short track was then set for their return. Paul O’Shea (IRL) and Skara Glen’s Machu Picchu immediately put on the pressure as he returned first and blazed through the timers in 43.88 seconds clean.
Paul O’Shea (IRL) held on to that victory until Maher stepped foot onto the field with the 19-year-old Belgian Sport Horse stallion (Clinton x Darco). Maher shaved mere milliseconds off of the Irishman’s previous leading time and landed at the top in 43.52 seconds.
O’Shea’s ride was good for second place with the Machu Picchu Partners LLC’s now 15-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Silverstone x Matterhorn).
As one of the final few to contend in the jump-off, Millar (CAN) once again made sure there was a woman on the podium by flying onward with Millar Brooke Farm and Overland’s 13-year-old Selle Francais gelding Truman (Mylord Carthagohn x Kolibri) in a time of 43.99 seconds to secure third. The position was no easy feat as Millar explained she had been working upwards of a year to gain speed on the gelding.
“He has been a fantastic horse for me and has really brought me up to a new level in my career,” said O’Shea. “He tries his heart out each time, and I am very grateful to everyone involved that I am able to ride him.
“At the end of each year, we normally give him a long break but then struggle a bit to get him fully going again,” continued O’Shea. “This year we kept him going, and it seemed to work better for him to just continue moving.”
“Clearly, he loves the grass field, as he was amazing here last year for me as well,” noted Maher, referencing his win with Tic Tac in this same event in 2021. “We are very selective when we show him now because of his age, but he is an amazing horse and I give a lot of credit to the people who look after him day in and day out to keep him in such top shape.”
The pair had not reconnected for four months until a week ago as Maher is frequently traveling in Europe and the stallion makes his permanent residence in Wellington, Florida.
“We just emphasize keeping him fit and happy and knowing how to pick the right moments for him,” continued Maher. “I am very fortunate he has all the experience he does and allowed me to really ride him today, because you have to take a lot of chances to be ahead of Amy [Millar] and Paul [O’Shea].”
Final Results – $140,000 Hygain Feed Grand Prix CSI 3*
1) Ben Maher (GBR) & Tic Tac – 0 / 0 – 43.52
2) Paul O’Shea (IRL) & Skara Glen’s Macchu Picchu – 0 / 0 – 43.88
3) Amy Millar (CAN) & Truman – 0 / 0 – 43.99
Source: Press Release from Jennifer Wood Media, Inc. for ESP – Equestrian Sports Productions
Photos: © Sportfot