In such an unpredictable sport, it is rare for a single combination to arrive at the Olympic Games as hot championship favorites.
However, as was the case with Nick Skelton and the great Big Star in Rio five years ago, this is a combination that has the potential to be world-class.
Maher radiated confidence after his triumph in the Rolex Grand Prix Show at the Royal Windsor Horse Show last month, to the extent that he joked that the horse could definitely cook him breakfast if he asked.
And, although he acknowledged that he had never driven a Ferrari, he added, “I suppose riding Explosion is how it feels.”
Riders describe their “once-in-a-lifetime” horse. Others never locate one, but Maher, 38, knew Explosion’s engine was humming and ready to slide through the gears.
“When I ride with a little of speed, he gets confidence,” Maher said. “I’d rather rely on his quality and ride at his pace.”
Maher was born and raised in Enfield, the same location as Great Britain’s multiple Olympic dressage champion Charlotte Dujardin. She started riding when she was eight years old.
He attended Saffron Walden County High School and soon blossomed in his riding career, first with renowned British trainer Liz Edgar – the sister of double Olympic bronze medalist showjumper David Broome – and then with international rider Beat Mandli in Switzerland.
Maher moved quickly through the ranks, culminating in a European Young Rider team gold medal.
By the time he was 25, he had earned his first Olympic selection, representing Great Britain in Beijing, kicking off a run of four consecutive Games appearances, highlighting his performance consistency and enormous horse-power.
He began acquiring some exceptional horses – such as Robin Hood W, Tripple X III, and Cella – and it was aboard Tripple X that he helped Great Britain win a thrilling team gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics.
Together with current Tokyo colleague Scott Brash, Skelton, and Peter Charles, Britain ended a 60-year team showjumping drought, launching Maher’s career.
“The horse was not going to let me down,” Maher observed after his dramatic jump-off victory against Holland. “He jumped very well.
“Tripple X was outstanding from the first tournament he entered. He matured into his own person, and I’ve always felt he was going to be somebody great.”