Northern Ireland news

Rider 'appalled' champion horse to be sold by auction house

Dressage champion Carl Hester on Uthopia

AN Olympic gold medallist has said he is "appalled" a champion stallion is to be auctioned as part of bankruptcy proceedings against a Co Armagh woman and her father.

Uthopia, a 15-year-old dark bay stallion, is to be sold by Mallusk-based Wilson's Auctions on May 27.

The horse, estimated to be worth several million pounds, was ridden by dressage champion Carl Hester who kept him at his yard in England.

It is being sold as part of bankruptcy proceedings against former event rider Sasha Stewart, from Richhill, Co Armagh, and her father Derek Harrison.

Mr Harrison is a property developer whose firm Future Residential Developments was placed into receivership in 2011.

Uthopia was the subject of legal wranglings over his ownership.

In a statement last night Hester said he is working to find backers to help him buy the horse.

"It's been a distressing experience for us all and with a very unhappy end," he said.

"Uti has been part of the family for 11 years and is a yard favourite. Quite simply, I'm appalled that it's come down to this.

"I owe him so much and my immediate concern is for the horse's welfare. I just want him home to spend the rest of his days at our yard, cared for by those who adore him."

Uthopia was found by Hester as a four-year-old. He has won several championship medals including Olympic Team Gold in 2012.

The auction house said last night it takes Uthopia's welfare "very seriously".

"We recognise the importance of maintaining the level of expert care and attention that the horse has previously enjoyed," it said.

"Uthopia will reside at his current stable yard and be cared for by the same people throughout this process.

"We welcome bids from any interested party and it is our wish that the eventual purchaser enjoys owning the horse for many years to come."

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