The world collides at Wellington International this week as the CSIO4* Nations Cup takes up the spotlight during the Winter Equestrian Festival’s (WEF) Week 8, presented by Florida Coast Equipment. Opening the prestigious week, Ben Maher (GBR) clinched the $32,000 Adequan® CSIO4* WEF Challenge Cup Round 8 on Thursday as a qualifier for Sunday’s $200,000 CSIO4* JWTG, Inc. Grand Prix.

Riding Ginger-Blue – or “Cookie” as the 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare is referred to in the barn – the reigning Olympic champion topped a field of 64 horse-and-rider combinations bursting with talent from all corners of the world. The one-round, two-phase format designed by Steve Stephens (USA) left Maher at the top of the leaderboard over USA’s Karl Cook by just shy of a full second.

Maher stopped the clock at 69.44 seconds for owner Jane Forbes Clark, while Cook ended on 70.38 aboard his 2023 Pan-American Games mount, Caracole de la Roque, owned by Helen Signe Ostby. Fellow U.S. rider Charlotte Jacobs rounded out the podium in the irons of Rincoola Milsean for owner North Star in 71.03 seconds. (Top Canadian was Erynn Ballard aboard Coconet, 9th)

“It’s always special to win any FEI competition, especially here in Wellington; there’s a lot of good horse and rider combinations any week,” said Maher. “But, as you see this week there’s a lot of people that fly in especially for this week, so to start it like this is a confidence boost.”

Of Ginger-Blue (Plot Blue x Royal Bravour), a horse Maher started developing as a seven-year-old, he noted, “She’s a horse that’s better when she’s running and jumping. She’ll get more confidence before the Nations Cup this week. I’ve had her for many years, but this will be her first Nations Cup with me. It’s nice to give her the chance here, and she certainly showed in her last few rounds that she’s ready for the challenge.”

While Maher and Ginger-Blue will suit up for Great Britain during ‘Saturday Night Lights,” Maher will aim his other mount, Point Break, at the CSIO4* JWTG, Inc. Grand Prix on Sunday.

Closing out the afternoon in the International Arena at WEF, Nicole Velazco Magana (MEX) piloted her own F.C. Okarla to top call in the $10,000 BrainJuice U25 Welcome on Thursday. Speed was the name of the game in the one-round opener for the week. Velazco’s proved uncatchable at 60.38 seconds to help her claim the win over USA’s Natalie Dean riding Oasis van de Bucxtale, owned by Marigold Sporthorses, LLC. Dean stopped the clock in 61.19 seconds. Ansgar Holtgers Jr. rounded out the podium on Kennedy Z in a time of 61.95 seconds for owner Gut Einhus, LLC.

Under 25 jumper riders will again shine under the lights of Wellington International on Friday evening for the $32,000 BrainJuice U25 Sem-Final Grand Prix. The event marks the final opportunity to gain valuable points ahead of the series finale during WEF 11.

Results here.