Riders fume after Allen denied Grand Prix glory
The FEI'S "blood" rule is being hotly debated since Ireland's Bertram Allen was disqualified after winning Monday night's Grand Prix at Olympia in London.
The 20-year-old rider posted a super-fast winning time when fourth to go in the jump-off with Quiet Easy. But, following a tense 30-minute delay, the prize-giving took place with runner-up, Great Britain's Michael Whitaker, awarded the €25,000 first prize.
Controversy ensued after the Wexford showjumper's 11-year-old gelding underwent mandatory examination by a steward after leaving the arena. Photographs posted online showed small marks on the horse's right-hand side, or flank.
The rules of the international equestrian federation, the FEI, states that disqualification is mandatory for horses "bleeding on the flank(s), in the mouth or nose or marks indicating excessive use of spurs or of the whip anywhere on the Horse".
Allen, who is No 6 in the world rankings and who finished third at the World Cup final in Las Vegas earlier this year, is widely recognised as an exceptional horseman who has an extraordinary empathy with his superb string of horses.
Clearly uncomfortable about the sensational turn of events, Whitaker openly admitted: "I think Bertram was probably very hard done by. He rode a fantastic round - I couldn't see much on there (on the horse's side) at all to be honest . . . I suppose rules are rules and everyone has to abide by them, but I couldn't see much wrong at all actually."
Asked about his sporting gesture when handing the winner's rosette to the Irishman after the prize-giving, the 55-year-old Yorkshireman said, "Well, he won!"
Clearly shocked by the controversy, Allen said he was "devastated". "I have a fantastic relationship with all my horses and their welfare is paramount. My foot must have slipped against Quiet Easy's side when I was riding against the clock. He's a sensitive horse, and it was just a tiny nick."
An appeal was lodged, but the Appeal Committee upheld the Ground Jury's earlier decision. German ace Ludger Beerbaum said he wasn't happy about the final result and that he had to put on his spectacles to see the mark on Quiet Easy's side. "Bertram deserved to win," he said.
London 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Cian O'Connor also weighed into the debate on Monday night. Commenting on his Facebook page, he said: "A general consensus among the top riders here is that the FEI rule needs to be reviewed regarding mandatory disqualification, and in my view, over-zealous stewarding by one particular steward, compounded by the apathetic actions of the foreign judge and president of the ground jury....."