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“What makes him so special? From 2015 to 2018 at FEI level he’s only had one rail down — and that was back in 2015,” says triple Olympic gold medallist Andrew Hoy.

The Australian eventer is talking about the enviable track record of his “extraordinary” nine-year-old Vassily De Lassos, whom Andrew has pinpointed as his WEG prospect for the championships in USA later this year.

“His dressage is improving all the time. He can run and jump — he’s just a very, very special horse,” he adds.

But it hasn’t all been plain sailing for this talented prospect, as he certainly comes with his quirks.

Andrew eventually took the ride 12 months ago from British-born Frenchman Thomas Carlile but was forced to “think outside the box” when all the gelding’s foibles were revealed.

“I’d been told about him about 15 months before we got him,” says Andrew of the French-bred Anglo-Arab by Jaguar Mail. “Tom told me what he’d done performance-wise but he said he needs a pony [companion] in the stable and to travel with, and he’s a weaver — I thought, I don’t need that!

“But I tried him and I thought he was just OK — I still wasn’t sure. But I kept going back and looking at his result sheet and I thought, if he’s got all these problems and yet he’s got all these good results, maybe I need to think outside the box here.”

When Vassily De Lassos arrived at Andrew’s Leicestershire stables they tried to accommodate the gelding’s quirks and put their miniature Shetland pony in with him.

“We stopped that pretty soon as he went for the little Shetland!” says Andrew, who co-owns the chestnut with Paula and David Evans. “He was absolutely fine, but that was the end of that and actually he settled down fine.

“Tom had a lot of horses on his yard — about 28 — and I’ve got a maximum of 15, some of which are just very young, so I think he preferred it.”

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Since the gelding’s arrival, he and Andrew have had two CCI3* starts, most recently taking fourth at Tattersalls in May, and they finished eighth in the eight- and nine-year-old class at Blenheim last year. The next stop on the road to WEG is the CICO3* at Aachen — “If the Australian team allow me”.

“I’ve got a new generation of horses coming through, who are just exceptional — I’m really fortunate to have great owners and super horses right now,” says 59-year-old Andrew, new father to daughter Philippa with wife Stefanie.

“I might be getting old, but I’m enjoying it as much as ever. Philippa has certainly given me a new lease of life.”

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