For an international athlete in any sport, pressure is always highest in an Olympic year.

When your nation is ranked number one in the world for your sport and spoiled for options when it comes to horse power and rider talent, it only turns up the intensity. So it helps when you have a horse you believe in.

For Darragh Kenny, a Paris 2024 hopeful riding for Ireland, that horse is Amsterdam 27.

“He’s an absolutely incredible horse,” said Kenny after winning the first 5* Grand Prix of the 2024 Winter Equestrian Festival season on Saturday at Wellington International in Florida. “He’s the most talented animal I’ve ever sat on. He’s quality, scopey, smart. He’s just a really, really cool horse. I think he has the ability to win anything.”

At a cursory glance, the Holsteiner gelding doesn’t have a particularly accomplished record. Aged 14, he’s won just €359,959 in career earnings and, despite six podium finishes over 27 rounds at 1.60m, his biggest win is a 4* 1.50m class—four years and two riders prior in 2020.

For context, Killer Queen VDM, also 14, has €2.8 million in career earnings and 12 wins at 1.60m or higher. King Edward (14) clocks in at over €3.1 million euro and 29 wins (Jumpr App).

But Kenny isn’t alone in his admiration of the horse.

Amsterdam 27 has competed under three riders internationally. He was developed up to the 1.60m level by Mario Deslauriers and, at age 9, took the Canadian Olympian to the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru.

“From the first day I tried him, I knew he was special,” Deslauriers told Horse Sport. “I’ve had several good horses and when I tried him, he did everything very easily, his mind was so good, while he is so careful, he’s also so brave. He’s so mature, his rideability is great. Nothing really bothers him. The feeling when you jump a horse like Amsterdam is incredible.”

The gelding was sold to Israel’s Teddy Vlock ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Games. The young amateur earned a podium finish in a 4* Grand Prix in their second Grand Prix appearance together and, that same year, contested his first Olympics with the horse.

After a year off due to injury in 2022, the reins on the gelding were passed to Vlock’s coach, Darragh Kenny. He’s now in the pipeline for Paris 2024 with the Irishman and their Saturday win at WEF, the first five star Grand Prix title of Amsterdam 27’s career, is a promising step toward that goal.

Forty pairs contested course designer Gregory Bobo’s 1.60m track in the CSI5* Fidelity Investments Grand Prix. Five advanced to the jump off.

Jordan Coyle (IRL) set the time to beat with a clear in 39.69 seconds on For Gold. Countryman Cian O’Connor crossed the timers three tenths of a second faster (39.36) on new mount, Maurice. Kenny cut is down to 38.66. Only USA’s Kent Farrington and Greya were faster on the day, by a tenth (38.53), but a rail ultimately slotted them into fourth.

In the end, it was an all-Irish podium, with Kenny on top.

“I’m so thankful for Teddy that he kept the horse for me to ride and let me jump to this level on it,” he shared. “The horse had an injury, and he was out for a year. The vets didn’t really think he’d make it back and he came back to this level now and he’s doing it better and better. I’m really just excited and proud of the horse.”

Five star competition returns to WEF on weeks 7, 9 and 12.