Ben Maher captures the 1.50m Telus Cup in return to Spruce Meadows – best news

  • September 7, 2023

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Ben Maher may not have competed at Spruce Meadows in a few years, but his partner seems to know the facility pretty darn well.

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Exit Remo, a 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, was a member of the Dutch BMO Nations Cup squad in 2022, under the guidance of Patrick Lemmen. So in this case, the horse showed the rider the way.

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“I was watching (the 2022 Masters) at home wanting to be here,” the 40-year-old British rider noted. “We were looking for a horse with a bit more experience so we bought him just after Spruce Meadows. I thought it was an older, worldly horse, but actually he’s sensitive. He gets confidence from a round like that and he grows into himself. Wasn’t quite the horse that I thought he was in the beginning, he has that sensitive side, but he’s very easy to handle. He makes my life pretty easy.”

It certainly looked pretty easy for Maher and Exit Remo on the opening day of the 2023 Spruce Meadows Masters show jumping tournament, as the duo beat 13 others in a jump-off to capture the 1.50m Telus Cup. Maher was just in Milan for the European championships.

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 “Amazing,” Maher, the fourth-ranked rider in the world, smiled. “It’s been a busy couple of weeks, especially for the riders from Europe, and I wasn’t able to ride these horses because I was in Milan.

“It’s a long week here. Spruce Meadows as we all know is a different type of venue. Horses, they take a while to adjust to this arena. I knew he knew the arena well but I decided on the plane over yesterday that I’m going to get out of the starting blocks this week and make sure the horses are up and running and getting familiarized with the jumps and grass and then I can pick and choose where I go for the rest of the week.”

Maher’s time of 39.98 was the quickest over the shortened course. Ireland’s Denis Lynch and Brooklyn Heights were second in 40.82, while fellow Irishman Conor Swail took third with Theo 160. Maher, incidentally, was also fourth as he and Enjeu de Grisien navigated the course in 41.18. Canada’s Erynn Ballard and Coconet were fifth.

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“Remo is a pretty fast horse, he has a huge stride,” Maher explained. “I just did what I could do on him; he has a lot of experience so I trusted him. With my second horse, he’s quite a bit younger, not so familiar with this kind of environment. I tried to go quick but I did what I could do.

“Spruce Meadows is a lot of running and jumping, you can really use your stride and attack the course. It suited Remo today.”

Maher’s plan is to use Exit Remo in Saturday’s Nations Cup and he hopes to go with Dallas Vegas Batilly, a 10-year-old mare, in Sunday’s prestigious grand prix.

“They all look, they’re not afraid, but hold on, this is not what we’re used to back home,” he conceded. “Like everybody I have my plan and hopefully this will give us confidence for the rest of the week.”

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A squall blew in after about a quarter of the field started, taking down the odd jump and the timing mechanism, but mercifully the wind stopped about 15 minutes later.

In the opening class in the International Ring, the 1.45m Cardel Homes Cup, Britain’s Matthew Sampson and Fabrice DN rode to victory with a supremely quick and clear time of 61.27. Brazil’s Santiago Lambre and Chattanooga were a close second in 61.79.

Five of the top 10 riders in the FEI rankings are taking part this week, including Maher at No. 4, No. 3 Steve Guerdat of Switzerland and yet another Swiss rider, Martin Fuchs, at No. 5. Guerdat comes into the Masters as the newly-crowned European champion, while Team Sweden – the reigning Olympic, World and European champs – will attempt to defend the BMO Nations Cup.

Canada is looking to field a strong team in anticipation of qualifying for the Paris 2024 Olympics. Two chances to qualify remain – the Barcelona Nations Cup final and the Pan American Games.

Sunday is highlighted by the $3-million CPKC International grand prix, the next stop in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.

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