Chinese rider Alex Hua Tian’s Rio ride Don Geniro has been named Equiratings horse of the year (ERHOTY) 2016.
“The Don” beat 11 other shortlisted top event horses including Olympic champion La Biosthetique Sam FBW in a public Twitter vote to take the title. Ben Hobday’s 2016 Badminton ride Mulrys Error finished in second place with Camilla Speirs’ Portersize Just A Jiff in third.
“The Don has had a tremendous year, winning the Event Rider Masters at Bramham and eighth at the Olympic Games – the two best results of my career to date as well,” Alex said.
“Having said that, we all know that as a young horse, Don has yet to measure up to the greats, such as La Biosthetique Sam. I know that there will be a few eventing fans out there who will be a tad sore about The Don beating Sam in the first heat.
“However, in my mind, Don’s landmark achievement is how he has galvanised millions of new followers from an emerging market. My team and I have been overwhelmed by the genuine and passionate support for The Don from fans in China, especially considering that Twitter is blocked there.
“With the sport looking to drive itself into new markets, I hope that the established eventing community welcomes these new fans with open arms. China’s growing interest in equestrian sports will bring endless opportunities to the sports and industry sectors. This result is not just exciting for The Don, me and my team, but the whole sport as well.”
Chinese fans did manage to access Twitter to support their entry, including Li Xinyuan, who wrote: “This voting method is somewhat biased as it is almost impossible to access Twitter in China. This is not about winning, but we want an opportunity to show how keen we are in China to support and participate in equestrian sport.”
Equiratings director Diarmuid Byrne said ERHOTY was “great fun” this year.
“How much does Don Geniro love to make a fool of us?” he added. “Earlier in the year, we famously said that he wouldn’t win Bramham – we saw two foot-perfect jumping displays to take the win and we have been reminded about it ever since.
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“We certainly didn’t think he could take out the now double Olympic champion Sam, the American darling Mighty Nice or the V8 supercob Mr Mulry but if 2016 has taught EquiRatings anything it is to stop underestimating Don Geniro.
“From a stats point of view, he is there on merit: 22 international runs and an average dressage of 41.9, and yet to have a cross-country jumping fault, an ERM win at Bramham and top 10 at Rio, he is front and centre of the 10-year-olds to look forward to in 2017.”