News Story

Friday, September 2, 2016 • 7:03 pm

A Stark assessment

This year, for the first time in the 29-year history of the Dubarry Burghley Young Event Horse final, the top contenders were put through their paces by a celebrity judge.

Ian Stark had the honour of being the first to get the leg-up and he rode the top four contenders in the four- and five-year-old finals.

“It’s been a fascinating day for me,” said Ian. “I knew right from the beginning that what I was looking for was a horse that would put a smile on my face and two of the five-year-olds did and all four of the four-year-olds were just amazing. It bodes very well for the future of the sport. In fact, I think I’ll be sending my youngsters to these riders!”

Interestingly, Ian’s assessment had the desired effect of shuffling the final order in both line-ups.

“I watched the five-year-olds walk, trot and canter and picked out my favourite. But then when I rode them I swapped allegiance to another horse [the eventual winner, For Certain, ridden by J-P Sheffield] because it was light and bright and it gave me a very special ride.”

Ian saved his top mark of the day – eight out of a possible eight marks – for the eventual runner-up in the four-year-old final, Shannondale Nadia, ridden by Ros Canter.

“She was particularly light on her feet,” said Ian. “The four-year-olds all felt a little bit tired at the end of a long day, but interestingly the riders felt they perked up when they had a different rider on board as it was something new for them.

“It’s all about encouraging people to train their horses correctly right from the word go. We’re not looking for a clockwork mouse, we’re looking for something that’s got a bit of character, a bit of naughtiness and a bit of sparkle; something that’s got the lightness, movement and suppleness to go on.”

Of his new assignment this year, Ian concluded: “Maybe next year they’ll let me jump them as well!  I was longing to do that, but everyone had a heart attack when I mentioned it!

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed riding these lovely horses, though, and feel very privileged to be here and be the first jockey to be given this important job.”

Read the five-year-old and four-year-old reports.