Horses took flight last night at the Longines Masters of Los Angeles. The first big night of competition featured the $85,000 Prix Airbus CSI5* and the $130,000 Longines Speed Challenge.
Darling of the 2015 Masters Series, John Whitaker of Great Britain, took another win aboard the 13-year-old, dark bay stallion Argento (Arko III x Gasper) in the Prix Airbus. This winning combination has already captured the Longines Grand Prix and the Gucci Gold Cup at the Longines Masters of Hong Kong.
The pleasure of watching this pair is all in the personality of the duo. Argento is a fiery character when it’s time to do his job, but according to Whitaker, that’s exactly what he’s looking for.
“When he bucks, he normally jumps good when he bucks,” he continued. “It means he’s enjoying himself. He’s always stuck his tongue out his entire life. Everybody knows about his tongue.”
Meanwhile, Whitaker may be one of the most understated riders in the sport. When he talks about his rides he is very matter-of-fact – a personality that apparently follows into his personal life. On touring the larger Los Angeles area, Whitaker had this to say.
“I went on the sightseeing bus today in Los Angeles. My wife forced me into it. I saw everything—Beverly Hills, Sunset Boulevard, it was two hours. It was very interesting. I enjoyed it. The last time I was here in Los Angeles was in 1984 (for the Olympics).”
In the exciting Speed Challenge, it looked very much like fellow Brit and current World Number One rider, Scott Brash, would take the day. Brash, aboard 11-year-old mare Hello Annie (Contendro I x For Pleasure), made it look easy, coming in with a cool time of 58.96 seconds.
According to Brash, “I thought it was a difficult course to be fast and clear.” And that’s saying something!
But Ireland’s 20-year-old phenom, Bertram Allen, unseated the man with the number one armband to take the win in an intense round riding Quiet Easy 4 (Quidams Rubin x Zapateado), an 11-year-old Oldenburg gelding. Just four weeks ago Allen suffered a broken collarbone, but reports that that he now barely notices any soreness or pain. He certainly looks in top form. Nevertheless, Allen was modest about this latest victory.
“It was very, very fast class,” Allen said. “I nearly thought it wasn’t possible to beat Scott, but I gave it a go. There was a four second gap between first and second, so if I’d been smart I maybe should have tried to fit into that.
Allen may be humble, but from the stands it is with out question that this up-and-comer put in a brilliant round by any standard.
And, as for this winner’s plan to get out and see the fair city, Allen is all business: “Los Angeles is nice. But there are two more days ahead of us so we won’t do anything too wild to celebrate tonight.”
Allen is right to rest up. With a field of riders as distinguished as that of the Longines Masters of Los Angeles and several more Grand Prix events to come, every rider must be a peak performance to stay on the podium.