Riddle of Richhill, the £7m horse and a Gold Medal

Olympic Gold medallist Carl Hester on Uthopia, whose ownership has been cast into mystery.
Olympic Gold medallist Carl Hester on Uthopia, whose ownership has been cast into mystery.

A WEB of mystery exists over whether Richhill should be given the ‘golden postbox’ accolade for Olympic Gold - surrounding the query over the ownership of the multi-million pound golden horse Uthopia.

It arose from an interview with the Portadown Times over the ownership of the champion horse, ridden to gold medal glory by Carl Hester in London 2012. Property developer Derek Harrison of Mullalelish denied that his daughter Sasha Stewart was owner of the horse, valued at £7m. And further investigations by the Times and Belfast Telegraph this week failed to unravel the riddle.

In the week after the London 2012 triumph, Mr Harrison told the Times that Sasha did not own Uthopia, but that - as a fine dressage rider (she represented Ireland in Athens 2004) - she had a hand in the horse’s training when it was a three-year-old.

He said, “With Sasha being such a fine dressage rider, Carl and other top people would send their horses here for her to develop as part of their training. Uthopia was, as far as I recall, a three-year-old and Sasha had quite a bit of local success with the horse. Eventing is a tight world, and Carl was one of her many friends within the sport.”

However, records from the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI), the worldwide governing body for all Olympic equestrian disciplines - according to the Telegraph - lists Mrs Sasha Stewart as part owner of the horse from September 2011. Carl Hester is also registered in FEI records as part owner

To add to the confusion, the FEI lists the names ‘S. Stewart and Mr Harrison’ as Uthopia’s owners between January 2009 nand April 2010. And from April 1, 2010 until September 13, 2011, Carl is listed as the sole owner. And the website uthopiastallion.com also links Mrs Stewart to the horse, with stud inquiries directed to ‘Sasha’s voicemail’.

The plot deepened when the Daily Mail interviewed Charlotte Dujatdin - one of the four gold medallists in the Team Britain’s dressage team. She was quoted as saying that Carl Hester and Roly Luard owned Valegro, and Sasha Stewart owned Uthopia, “but that’s between them”.

The mystery was stood on its head by the legendary magazine Horse and Hound when Equine lawyer Jacqui Fulton - who represents Hester - said that Mrs Stewart did not own Uthopia. “What Sasha is saying is that she sold the horse a number of years ago to a private investor, but she’s always named as the owner because the investor is happy with it.” The Telegraph article goes on to say that in an interview with Horse and Hound editor Alice Collins, Mrs Stewart said that she was owner of Uthopia.

The Portadown Times and the Belfast Telegraph have been unable to contact Mrs Stewart or Mr Harrison to throw more light on the subject, but the BT piece ends by saying that her solicitor Brian Speers told the magazine that “complexities arise sometimes in establishing ownership of horses.”

The solicitor is also reported to have said, “There are investigations and discussions on-going with a view to resolving matters quickly” and he is also quoted as saying that any sale of Uthopia could not take place until the question of ownership is resolved.

So Richhill will have to wait for delivery of that golden postbox. If at all...