By John Tynan
A bronze medal at the World Cup final was plenty reason for nineteen-year-old show jumper Bertram Allen to declare himself "happy" last night.
The Wexford rider’s dream of becoming Ireland’s first winner of the title slipped away in the deciding grand prix at the Thomas & Mack Arena in Las Vegas, but Allen preferred to focus on the positive after three days of competition with the grey mare Molly Malone V. “I’m very happy.
It was a hard enough championship and, to come out in third, you’d have to be happy,” said the teenager, who pocketed 130,000 euro, overall.
“Definitely, it was a great experience that will stand to me in the future. I’ll look back on it and learn from it, but I won’t get too caught up on whether I could have won it... and overall I enjoyed the experience,” said Allen, who added he was "very thankful for the savage support" he had received.
The German-based Gorey rider came to the gambling Mecca with a well-deserved reputation, having won two World Cup qualifiers in what was his debut season and risen to 10th in the Longines World Rankings.
He laid down a marker when he claimed the opening speed class on Thursday to take an early lead and give his growing fan-base cause for greater optimism.
While a single error in the second competition on Friday saw him slip to third on the leaderboard, just one penalty separated him from Switzerland's Steve Guerdat on Albfuehren’s Paille and American Rich Fellers on the amazing 19-year-old Flexible, bred by Edward and Catherine Doyle in Co Kildare. France’s Penelope Leprevost and Vagabond de la Pomme were in fourth place, five penalties off the pace.
Last night’s course proved worthy of a world championships, and 2012 victor Fellers and his veteran mount were among those to find the going tough, the pairing going out of contention to ultimately finish seventh.
Allen, however, and his 11-year-old mare had just a single fence down to complete the first round on five penalties, moving to equal second with Leprevost, who jumped clear.
Guerdat, meanwhile, again demonstrated the class that won him gold at the London Olympics, finishing with no penalties, to maintain his lead. The top 20 riders returned for the second round, with Allen and Leprevost matching each other with a fence down, to move to nine penalties apiece.
This left Guerdat with two fences in hand and, though he used up his cushion, his tally of eight penalties gave him the championship. While Allen was tied in the silver medal position with Leprevost, the Frenchwoman’s time was just half a second faster to see her edge out the teenager. Allen travels to Antwerp next weekend for the lucrative Global Champions Tour show, but longer-term his focus is on the European Championships in August when, he said, “I hope to play my part in helping Ireland to win a place in the Olympics”.
With the Furusiyya Nations Cup Series looming, Irish show jumping manager Robert Splaine lauded Allen, who, before taking the senior ranks by storm, amassed a hoard of European medals as a pony and junior rider, including team gold and individual silver.
“He’s an exceptional talent and, for a 19-year-old to place third in a World Cup final, is a remarkable achievement," said Corkman Splaine, who was in Vegas. "I expect he will play a big part in Ireland’s campaign this summer.”
Meanwhile, at the three-star show in San Giovanni in Marignano in Italy, Niall Talbot and Nicos de la Cense won the grand prix. On the domestic circuit, Daryl Walker and Cushions claimed the final of the Connolly Red Mills/HSI Spring Tour at Coilog, Co Kildare. Liam O’Meara had wrapped up the league a number of weeks ago, but, for good measure, placed third with Mr Coolcaum yesterday behind John Floody aboard Mise Le Meas.