Young Irish ace Bertram Allen wins Hong Kong hearts ahead of Longines Speed Challenge defence

The 21-year-old is hoping to win again at AsiaWorld-Expo despite experienced opposition

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 February, 2017, 9:21pm
UPDATED : Friday, 10 February, 2017, 11:10pm

The Hong Kong public likes its horses to go fast and so it’s little wonder they’ve taken young Irish star Bertram Allen to heart.

At last year’s edition of the Longines Masters of Hong Kong, the now-21-year-old Allen blitzed his way to victory in the Longines Speed Challenge and there’s sure to be a buzz about AsiaWorld-Expo when the 2017 edition of the event is staged on Saturday night.

“Delighted to be back – it’s exactly how I remember it,” said Allen. “Very good memories so hopefully we can do it again. It’s a bit of a special class – it’s so fast – and there’s a new course this year and I haven’t ridden it so it will be interesting. I’ve the same horse [Quiet Easy] and we’re feeling good. Normally I’m fast and my horse is too.”

To grab the spotlight from the likes of the number-one ranked show jumper in the world, Germany’s Daniel Deusser, members of France’s all-conquering team from the Rio Olympics, and the John Whitaker – adding to the legend at 61 – takes some doing.

But the Wexford-born Allen is one to keep his feet planted firmly on the ground, even as the acclaim builds around him.

Ranked 18th in the world, Allen arrived in Hong Kong fresh from being named Ireland’s leading show jumper for the third year running – and from a second placing at the Grand Prix event at Bordeaux.

“I’ve been lucky enough to have a few great days,” said Allen, who also won last year’s HKJC Trophy here.

“It was a long season but a good one, had a few great placings and Hector, who I have here for the Grand Prix [on Sunday] was placed here last year and second in Grand Prix in Paris – so hopefully he’s up for it.”

Hong Kong’s Jacqueline Lai was kept busy over the event’s opening day. The HKJC-sponsored rider was greeted by a sea of Bauhinia flags when she first appeared in front of stands full of students in the afternoon’s EEM Trophy, before backing up in the HKJC Race of the Riders and the HKJC Trophy in the evening.

The Longines Masters of Hong Kong gives Lai a chance to compete against the best in the world, and while she admitted to nerves coming in, she was also relishing the challenge the weekend presents.

“I’ve been quite hard on myself coming her this year,” said Lai, who celebrates her 26th birthday on Wednesday. “”I have a new stallion [Der Senaat] I need a little bit more experience with. So I’m a little bit tense. But I’m just here to do my best and I know I have the crowd’s support. Everybody is hoping I’ll do my best – and that’s what I am here to do.”

The HKJC Race of the Riders was taken out by the combination of Hong Kong’s champion jockey Joao Moreira and Rio gold medallist Roger Yves Bost – maybe they should have been handicapped with that type of form coming in – while the US$95,500 HKJC Trophy was won by Martin Fuchs, of Switzerland, on Clooney.