Who owns Uthopia? Like most of the horseworld, H&H understood that Carl Hester’s Olympic gold medal-winning ride belonged to former event rider Sasha Stewart, with Carl and his syndicate holding a minority stake.
But since Uthopia’s success at Greenwich, Mrs Stewart’s father, Derek Harrison, has sought to distance his daughter from ownership of the horse.
It has also emerged that Mrs Stewart, of Richhill, Co Armagh, was declared bankrupt in September 2010. Bankruptcy status was lifted a year later.
Equine lawyer Jacqui Fulton – who represents Carl Hester – told H&H that Mrs Stewart does not own Uthopia.
“The horse has gone to the Olympics and it’s hit the press in Northern Ireland, where Sasha lives. And the bankruptcy people have picked up on it,” she said.
“What Sasha is saying is, she sold the horse a number of years ago to a private investor, but she’s always been named as the owner because the investor is happy with it and she likes the glitz and the glamour,” said Ms Fulton.
“But in reality, she doesn’t own the horse.”
Once a person has been declared bankrupt, the official receiver has a duty to make sure that any assets they have are sold, so creditors can be paid back.
Mr Harrison denied ownership of Uthopia in an interview with a local newspaper (9 August).
He told the Portadown Times he was “astounded” to hear his daughter owned “Uti”.
“She never owned him, but she’s thrilled to be associated with the whole scenario,” he said.
But in August 2011, in an interview with H&H dressage editor Alice Collins, Sasha Stewart said that she owned Uti “100%”.
And FEI records list Mrs Stewart and Carl as Uti’s owners since 14 September 2011. From 1 April 2010 until 13 September 2011, Carl is listed as the sole owner, while from 5 January 2009 until 31 March 2010, the FEI database has Mrs Stewart and Mr Harrison listed as the owners.
Mrs Stewart could not be reached for comment, but her solicitor Brian Speers said that “complexities arise sometimes in establishing ownership of horses.
“There are investigations and discussions ongoing with a view to resolving matters quickly,” he added. Mr Speers said any sale of Uthopia could not take place until the question of ownership was resolved.
Mrs Stewart’s father is a prominent property developer in Co Armagh and director of a large number of property firms.
One of Derek Harrison’s companies was put into administration in November 2011, although most of his firms are continuing to trade normally.
The co-directors of some of his companies include family members.
This news story was first published in the current issue of H&H (23 August 2012)