Irish sensation Bertram Allen steals the show in Longines Speed Challenge in Hong Kong

Local crowd warms to dashing competitor, who seems destined for greatness in equestrianism

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 February, 2016, 9:57pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 February, 2016, 10:04am

The Longines Masters has been showcasing a selection of the world’s best riders this weekend and among them has been a young man Hong Kong has taken to its heart.

The good news is that the feeling is completely mutual.

Twenty-year-old Irish sensation Bertram Allen has made his Hong Kong debut and word was before he arrived that the showjumper was destined for greatness, having been seemingly born with a rare ability to find that extra dash of speed in any horse he climbs up on.

They’re really getting into it. They seems to be getting behind me so that’s a nice feeling
Bertram Allen

“I guess it comes through hard work,” said Allen. “I’m just competitive and I love to practise. You work hard at it I suppose but I don’t think there’s any secret I can share with you, no.”

That speed has been on show all weekend and Allen flew around the course on Quiet Easy to win the Hong Kong Jockey Club Trophy on opening night. He was back at it again on Saturday and Allen had the crowd cheering his mount’s every stride as he lifted the Longines Speed Challenge.

Last rider out on the course, Allen was at his nerveless best and gave his raucous followers exactly what they wanted – with even a doff of his helmet to mark the victory.

“They’re really getting into it. They seem to be getting behind me so that’s a nice feeling,” said Allen. “It was nice to come here a bit early, go to the races at Happy Valley and see a bit of the city. Most of the time we just fly in and compete and go home.

“Europe has traditionally been the home of the sport but things are changing. We’ve come here and there are competitions in Shanghai and Mexico later in the year so things are spreading and I’m just happy to be a part of it.”

Ranked ninth in the world and the youngest rider in the top-50, Allen arrived fresh from picking up Ireland’s showjumper of the year award for the second straight year but he actually upped sticks and moved full time to Hunxe, Germany as a 16-year-old to base himself closer to equestrianism’s biggest events.

“I just went there for a few weeks originally just to see something difference but once I saw the set up and how it could help my career there was no going back,” he said.

This past year saw Allen claim the Longines Speed Challenge at the Masters of Los Angeles in October while last July he became the youngest ever rider to win a Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix in Paris.

“It’s been a pretty good 12 months for me and things are going well,” he said. “I’ve been getting the results and have had good horses under me and that the most important thing. At this stage of my career I want to keep improving so it has given me confidence looking forward for sure.”

Like many in town for the Longines Masters the Rio Olympics in August is looming large on the horizon. He’s another jumper who has all but qualified and is set to fulfil a dream he’s harboured since he first climbed up on a pony.

“It’s always been a goal, yeah, ever since I first got on a pony and got the bug for it,” said Allen. “It’s great working with horses every single day, travelling and competing. I just love it. So many people and the world ride and every one of would love to ride at this level so I am just very happy to be one of those who can.”

The three days of action at AsiaWorld-Expo comes to a conclusion on Sunday afternoon with the staging of the prestigious Longines Grand Prix.

As well as the focus on Bertram, attention will turn to French rider Patrice Delaveau who’s in the running for the 500,000 (HK$4.32 million) bonus if he makes it two grands prix in a row following his victory in the event at the Masters in Paris in December.