Los Angeles—Oct. 2
It’s only been a month since Bertram Allen broke his collarbone in a fall at the Treffen CSI***** (Austria), but he hasn’t let that slow him down.
The Irish phenom topped the $130,000 Longines Speed Challenge at today’s Longines Los Angeles Masters in a blazing round aboard Quiet Easy 4 against a start list chock full of serious competitors. He stopped the clock ahead of world No. 1 Scott Brash and Hello Annie, with Italy’s Piergiorgio Bucci and Cuarta coming third.
“It was a really fast class,” said Allen. “I nearly thought it wasn’t possible to beat Scott. There was a 4 second gap [between the leaders], so if I’d been smart I maybe should have tried to fit into that. Last week at [Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Final (Spain)] there was a 10 second gap between first and second. I tried to win and had a fence down, and I was really disgusted with myself. I should have been smart and gone for second, but obviously I didn’t learn much.”
After Allen’s fall, he was operated on nearly immediately, and had an impromptu vacation at home where he helped his brother at two pony shows.
“It was grand: I spent a full week at home in Ireland,” said Allen. “I don’t think I’ve spent a full week at home since I left four years ago.”
Allen wasn’t planning to come to Los Angeles but he had to skip Global Champions Tour competitions at Vienna and Rome, leaving him with two fresh horses and itchy feet. He called in a favor to get Romanov on the list to come to Los Angeles, and Quiet Easy 4, an 11-year-old Oldenburg (Quidam’s Rubin—Cerina, Zapateado), lucked into a stall on the plane at the last minute.
At just 20 years old Allen isn’t even old enough to legally drink the champagne he won along with the new Longines watch. This is just his second trip to the United States, his first being to Las Vegas for April’s FEI World Cup Final, where he finished third.
Argento Answers All The Questions
On the other end of the spectrum, one of the show’s most seasoned competitors won this afternoon’s big class. John Whitaker, 60, topped a huge-horse jump-off to claim the $85,000 Airbus Prix on the feisty Argento.
Twenty of the horse’s 34 entries found a clear way around the track fault-free after Luc Musette let out the time allowed.
“I think actually everybody was a little bit surprised,” said Whitaker of the huge jump-off field. “I think they probably should have just left the time; that would have made it a little bit more difficult. I don’t think anyone expected 20 clears, but it was still a good competition.”
The last time Whitaker was in Los Angeles was 31 years ago when he made his first of five Olympic appearences, helping Britain earn team silver at the 1984 Olympic Games. This time national glory has taken a back seat to cash. If he wins Sunday’s $450,000 Longines Grand Prix of Los Angeles, he’ll earn a €500,000 bonus for claiming the two legs of the Masters Grand Slam, having already claimed the title at the Longines Hong Kong Masters. He rode Argento in that class, too.
“I’ve ridden him since he was 4, so I know him quite well,” said Whitaker of the 13 year-old Anglo-European stallion (Arko III—Flora May, Gasper). “He’s a fighter; he’s tough. He probably hasn’t got the scope of some of the bigger horses with a big stride, but he watns to do the job. He fights and you know he’s going to jump the fence.”
Argento won over the crowd by kicking up his heels a bit and traversing the course with his tongue out the side of his mouth.
“You know he’s going to jump well when he bucks, so I don’t try to correct him too much,” said Whitaker. “It means he’s enjoying himself and feeling good.”
Whitaker’s enjoying being back in Los Angeles, and admitted, despite himself, that he quite enjoyed being dragged onto a sightseeing bus by his wife this morning.
“We saw everything, Beverly Hills, Sunset Boulevard—it was two hours,” said Whitaker. “It was very good..”
Catch up with Quentin Judge, who won yesterday’s Hollywood Reporter Cup with HH Fyloe.
There’s plenty of celebrity spotting—human and equine—at the Longines LA Masters. Get to know actress Kaley Cuoco’s Bionetty who will be competing in Saturday’s Pro-Am Charity Costume Class.
Look for a full analysis of the competition in the Oct. 19 issue of the magazine.
Full results are available at the Longines LA Masters site.