When you’re in a tight, three horse jump-off, it would be a fool’s assumption to imagine the class is an easy win.
Show jumping is often a numbers game. The height of the rails, strides between fences, seconds on the clock and the age of the horse are all facts a rider considers while riding a class.
However, when it comes to the number of horses in a jump-off, and the likelihood of emerging victorious, the answer isn’t always clean math. For example, if your opponents are Darragh Kenny (IRL) with 12-year-old Chic Chic and Schuyler Riley (USA) with 18-year-old Robin De Ponthual, you still need to ride the razor’s edge.
That was the scenario laid out for Irish rider Bertram Allen and his 11-year-old gelding Pacino Amiro for the CSI5* Adequan WEF Challenge Round 8 on Thursday at the Winter Equestrain Festival (WEF). The caliber of riders at Wellington International is high, but course designer Allen Wade (IRL) is an expert at finding chinks in their armor. The 44-combination class was drastically thinned down to Allen, Kenny and Riley. According to Allen, less was more, because it was evidence of a trickier challenge.
“I’ve never seen a WEF Challenge here where only three were clear in the first round, so it was a much more tactical jump-off than normal,” said Allen.
Allen also had luck of the draw on his side, as Kenny had to contest the shortened course first. There, Allen evaluated Kenny’s ride swiftly and carefully, finding the few windows of opportunity he believed could optimize the time around the course. Kenny clocked in at a brisk 38.65 seconds, and Allen was determined to do better.
“It was a huge advantage going after Darragh because I saw one or two places in his jump-off where I could get the better of him if I left the rails up,” said Allen.
Allen finished exactly as he planned, shaving Kenny’s time down to 36.94 seconds and leaving all the rails up. Riley ultimately couldn’t catch him, finishing in third with 44.47 seconds.
In 2021, Allen called Pacino Amiro his “next best horse” after winning Week 2’s CSI3* WEF Challenge Cup. Now, with a more seasoned Pacino Amiro, that prediction has rung true more than once.
“Pacino [Amiro] is an experienced horse now whereas he was only nine when he started jumping the 5* here. He has developed and knows his job now, so we just keep him as fit and healthy as possible.”
At present, the gelding has won upwards of 1.2 million euro in prize money though he sports a humble 28% clear round and 37% top ten finish rate at 1.60m according to Jumpr App. Those stats are currently trending upwards, and the pair will hope to build on Thursday’s result in the ‘Saturday Night Lights’ CSI5* Grand Prix.