Allen off to perfect start in quest for World Cup glory
Bertram Allen has taken a huge step towards becoming the first Irish showjumper to claim the coveted Longines FEI World Cup title.
Allen won Thursday night's opening competition at the series final in the Thomas & Mack Centre in Las Vegas.
The 19-year-old from Wexford, who has taken the sport by storm over the last 12 months, arrived at the US fixture on the back of superb results that have boosted him to the No 10 spot in the world rankings. And on Thursday night he mirrored the performance he produced at last summer's World Equestrian Games in Caen, France where he won on the opening day before eventually finishing seventh individually.
Allen's skill against the clock has been exceptional since his pony-jumping days when he claimed European gold. And although few others succeed in doing so, he has carried that skill through to senior level, becoming one of the most feared opponents on the circuit.
His high-profile successes have almost all been achieved with the brilliant grey mare Molly Malone with which he won the Grand Prix at Dublin Horse Show last summer. And on Thursday night the 11-year-old horse produced a sensational round of jumping to pin Olympic and World championship medallists into the minor placings.
It was 2012 World Cup champions, America's Rich Fellers and the evergreen 19-year-old Irish-bred stallion Flexible, who slotted into runner-up spot in the field of 40 runners, while Frenchman Patrice Delaveau and Dutch rider Jur Vrieling shared third spot when breaking the beam in exactly the same time. Olympic champion Steve Guerdat of Switzerland slotted into fifth spot.
Last night's jump-off class will decide the top 30 to go through to tomorrow's closing competition. If Allen can win, he won't be the youngest-ever champion because Canada's Mario Deslauriers had only just turned 19 when he came out on top in Gothenburg, Sweden back in 1984. But he would be the first Irish rider to claim the highest honour of the indoor jumping circuit.
Riding Carrolls of Dundalk, Eddie Macken finished joint-third at the inaugural final in Sweden in 1979, while Trevor Coyle was runner-up with Cruising in 1999 and Jessica Kuerten was just pipped for the top spot in 2006 in Kuala Lumpur with Castle Forbes Libertina.
Allen said earlier in the week that he had come to Las Vegas to "have a good crack" at the title, but his mare got a bit unruly with him during his training session on Thursday.
After winning that evening, he said: "Molly is quite a strong character and she has her own special ways.
"She had me worried because she half ran away with me when I was riding her earlier! But this evening she knew what she had to do and just went in and did it, she always gives her very best."