Photo: LGCT / Stefano Grasso
It was a class that bodes well for the recently announced British Olympic team, with Gold Medallist Ben Maher (GBR) taking the win in this morning’s speed competition with his brilliant fiery chestnut gelding Aristo Z. Hot on his heels, and just 8 tenths of a second away was 2016 Rio Olympic teammate, John Whitaker (GBR) who chased his compatriot to the post but has to settle for second with his top class gelding Lord of Arabia.
This morning’s CSI5* 1.45m speed class was met with typically sunny skies, as the beautiful backdrop of Hipódromo Manuel Possolo played host to 33 international horses and riders, ready to do battle for the lion’s share of the prize purse. The flowing course, created by Frank Rothenberger, was a test for best, with many combinations caught out by the full height double, and others drawn in to a too-speedy galloping pace, with the light poles requiring scope and careful jumping.
Ben set the pace early on, as the fourth starter to go, and threw down the gauntlet to the rest of the field after his blistering round with Aristo Z, a gelding famous for his speed and agility in classes such as these. Keeping the hot-blooded chestnut calm while maintaining pace and rhythm, Ben rode a masterful round to cross the line in an impressive 64.09s. The rest of the field tried, but failed to catch the pairing’s time, with John Whitaker (GBR) and Lord of Arabia the closest, stopping the clocks at 64.86s.
Abdullah Al Sharbatly (KSA) and Red Star d’’Argent took third overall, with the rider having previous success here after his podium in the Grand Prix in 2015. Marco Kutscher (GER) with the big-striding Clenur came fourth with a time of 78.60s, and Alexandra Thornton (GBR) took a strong 5th place with her 14 year old bay gelding Caballero. Bassem Hassan Mohammed (QAT) and the stunning grey Argelith Squid were the final riders to round out the top six, with the focus now on this evening’s competition, kicking off at 20:30 local time.