Tales from Somerford: From racing in Australia to eventing with William Fox-Pitt, the horse who’s finally found his niche in dressage

  • One of the most well-travelled horses at the Lemieux National Dressage Championships has to be Koko Pop, who was sixth in the Niagara Equissage grade IV para championship, ridden by Laura Scott.

    Owned by Catherine Witt, the 14-year-old gelding was born and bred in Western Australia, and is by the Danehill stallion Blackfriars out of Classy Act by Grosvenor. As Ebony Act he was trained to race in Perth, but finished down the field in his only run before moving to Rob and Cassie Palm, where he was renamed Koko Pop and retrained as an eventer.

    The horse won the CCI2* at Melbourne and the Off The Track Thoroughbred Triequithon at Caulfield Racecourse, the latter success earning the comment from Daniel Pearce, who trained Koko Pop to his solitary 10th place as a racehorse that, “It’ll be the only time he’ll ever win at Caulfield!”

    ‘Koko’ was then sold to the UK where he evented with William Fox-Pitt, before Laura took over the reins – and it has turned out to be third-time lucky for a horse who has now found his niche in life.

    “I worked for William and Alice [Fox-Pitt] one summer but then had a fall riding a youngster for someone,” Laura explained. “The horse bucked me off and I hit a fence post and damaged my spine. Alice came to visit me a few times in hospital and when she heard I was out of hospital and doing a bit of dressage, she rang and said there was a horse there that wasn’t going to go all the way eventing, and might suit me.”

    Laura’s first dressage horse was also an ex-racehorse – her parents Jeremy and Camilla, have a racing yard on the edge of Exmoor and trained Dashel Drasher to win the Grade 1 Betfair Ascot Chase in February this year. So it is somewhat ironic that Laura’s current ride Koko also started life on the racetrack – albeit 15,000 miles away.

    “We have a good partnership now,” said Laura, who trains with Sue Petty, after her test at the National Dressage Championships. “He’s beautifully trained and as long as I press the right buttons he does it. He has taught me masses and I can’t thank Catherine Witt enough for giving me the chance to ride him.”

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