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Monday 5 December 2016

Bertram Allen takes another leap forward

Published 29/04/2015 | 02:30

Panache: 19-year-old Bertram Allen, on Molly Malone V, in action at the FEI World Cup in Las Vegas
Panache: 19-year-old Bertram Allen, on Molly Malone V, in action at the FEI World Cup in Las Vegas

Every young boy involved in ponies dreams of one day winning that champion race, or that major competition in the show ring.

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For Bertram Allen, he has realised that dream time and time again. And, were it not for the toughness of the challenge in Las Vegas one week ago, the 19-year-old could have easily added the FEI World Cup to the many accolades he has accumulated ever since he began competitive show jumping a decade ago.

To win a qualifier on the opening day was magical, and to place third to long-time campaigner, winner Steve Guerdat from Switzerland, was simply phenomenal.

Allen's rise to the top of his game in the preceding weeks had not surprisingly garnered many admirers, all of whom now believe that the young Wexford man will, one day, claim that World Cup crown.

It is well known that many of Ireland's top riders in show jumping, eventing and, especially racing, honed their riding skills in the hunting field. For Allen it was with the Wexford Foxhounds at the tender age of eight.

It has to be said that nowhere else but hunting will you gain such confidence in the saddle, a confidence that Allen has in abundance when facing some of the biggest show jumping tracks on the circuit.

During his biggest test to date in Vegas he rode the mare Molly Molone V with such panache that onlookers were in disbelief that he was the youngest rider competing, along with fellow 19-year-old Jos Verlooy from Belgium.

"I knew I was in with a reasonable chance this week, thankfully it went really well to plan and it's great to be on the podium today," he said afterwards. "I've had a great week and feel honoured to be sitting up here with these riders at this young age."

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Many have watched Allen's rise to fame with curiosity, but it is certainly not just good horsepower that has given him the edge.

At the age of 12, in ponies, he won his first Grand Prix in Cavan, and the following year won the 138cms National Championship at the Belfast International Horse Show.

Two pony Grand Prix wins at the Dublin Horse Show followed, but it was on the international circuit when winning multiple medals at pony and junior level that his natural talent gathered the attention of his peers, including Irish rider Billy Twomey.

Leading German rider Marcus Ehning has been Allen's mentor, but even the former World No 1 could not compete with Allen on the opening day of the final in Vegas.

Of his protégé, Ehning said: "He's a really young guy but he knows his mind. I don't have to give him a lot of advice. For his age he really stands alone."

Indeed, Allen does stand alone, as few riders of his age have accumulated so much in those short years. Without doubt the UK-bred Molly Molone V (by Kannan) has contributed greatly to his success, with the historic Grand Prix win at the Dublin Horse Show and then individual seventh in the 2014 World Championships catapulting Allen further into the spotlight ahead of the 2014/2015 World Cup campaign.

And that he took by storm as well, winning qualifiers at both Verona and Bordeaux and placing second in the league behind Guerdat to ensure his spot in the European top 20 to qualify.

Allen justifiably headed to Vegas full of optimism in the hope of giving Ireland its first every victory in the World Cup. And he came so, so close to emulating those second placings achieved by Trevor Coyle (Cruising) in 1999 and Jessica Kurten on Castle Forbes Libertina seven years later.

However, it was just not to be, and two fences down on the final day left the sole Irish contender in third place, his fight for the top of the podium being left for another day.

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