Townend waiting for the real star to emerge

TOP OF THE PILE:  Oliver Townend riding Armada at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials. Picture: Kit Houghton.
TOP OF THE PILE: Oliver Townend riding Armada at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials. Picture: Kit Houghton.
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HUDDERSFIELD’S Oliver Townend is confident of a stellar 2015 – insisting his yard contains potential superstars even more highly regarded than Black Tie II, his World Equestrian Games ace.

Black Tie II catapulted Townend back into the Great Britain picture this year with the gelding’s super fourth-placed finish in Luhmuhlen’s CCI four-star event leading to the duo’s selection for the World Equestrian Games in Caen.

World No 4 Townend says his WEG mount has actually exceeded expectations with other inmates at his Shropshire yard expected to achieve even bigger and better things on the international stage.

Armada remains Townend’s flag-bearer after a fine 2014 highlighted by a second-placed finish at Badminton but the Yorkshireman has a plethora of exciting youngsters bubbling beneath the surface, including Cooley Master Class, who could be aimed at next year’s Bramham.

After Black Tie II’s somewhat better than expected 2014, Townend admits he is hugely excited and intrigued to discover just who will become his next big thing in 2015.

Townend revealed: “The great thing is that Black Tie is a very good horse to us and he has done extremely well to get to where he is. But there are horses behind Black Tie that we think are going to do an even bigger and better job.

“Black Tie has done an absolutely great job, he’s had a fantastic year winning his three-star and being fourth in a four-star and having said all that the minute we landed at the World Equestrian Games we knew it wouldn’t suit him.

“He needs firm ground and it absolutely chucked it down so we were always on the back foot, but it just shows that if you have the horses long enough and they believe in you and you keep believing in them, then they come good.

“There’s too many potentially very good horses to mention and we are just in a very, very fortunate position.

“For me, they are going to have to start to prove themselves with results now.

“They have all got enough experience, they are all to a high enough level and they are recognised names but someone is going to have to poke his head up and say ‘I’m the superstar here out of the bunch.’ But they are all very, very good horses.”

Armada remains at the top of the pile of those very good horses with Townend delighted that the gelding is losing none of his enthusiasm aged 15.

The 17-hands star will again be aimed at Badminton and Burghley in 2015.

Townend, 34, beamed: “He is the most consistent one at the top level and obviously it’s extremely impressive that he has managed to complete as many top level competitions as he has.

“He doesn’t look like he’s slowing down at the moment and he certainly looked fresh in the field the other day. He looks very good and sound so, hopefully, he’ll stay that way.”

With his star on the rise, Townend will certainly have plenty to celebrate this festive season though the Yorkshireman will, by and large, be staying down in Shropshire due to the vast amount of commitments and work involved with his thriving yard.

There will be one exception – a quick jaunt back to Yorkshire over Christmas to see his beloved grandma Ann.

Assessing his plans over the festive season, Townend revealed: “I’m staying down here and we’ve still got plenty of horses in.

“We’ve never been as busy at this time of the year and obviously there’s a lot to do as well in terms of teaching and things like that which I do quite a bit of.

“I spend quite a lot of time at sales and things like that and it’s just a constant thing trying to keep funding the whole thing and trying to find that next potential good horse.

“But I’ll come and see grandma at some stage no doubt. My parents are in Cheshire but there’s a lot of family up there like cousins and uncles. There’s about 40 members of the family up there.”

Plus close school friends such as fellow former Salendine Nook High School pupil Peter Clough, for whom Townend was best man at this summer’s wedding which came within hours of his outing at Bramham on ODT Ghareeb.

Townend will be back at the Yorkshire venue in 2015, but this time rather more relaxed.

Asked if there would be anything similar to this year’s mad-dash cross-country round followed by best man duty one hour later, Townend replied: “Definitely not or I hope not anyway but I shouldn’t say that! The wedding was very tight but at the same time it was really, really good and it all worked out really well. My horse went very well at Bramham and it was another step forward.”