Farewell to four-star stalwart: ‘The bravest thing I’d ever sat on — but arrogant’

  • Rider Antoinette McKeowen bid farewell to Two O Two, a stalwart of the British four-star scene for five years, on Tuesday this week (24 October).

    Two O Two, a grey by Welton Crackerjack who was owned and bred by the late Dinah Murdoch, was 25 years old.

    “I had him from a five-year-old and jumping-wise there was nothing you couldn’t put him at — he was the bravest thing I’d ever sat on even as a young horse and very powerful,” said Antoinette.

    “But he was quite arrogant and opinionated about it all. He thrived on getting himself into trouble and getting himself out again; he was only tiny, only 15.3hh, but he was amazingly athletic.

    “The best ride I ever had on him was at Badminton in the mud [when he was 12th in 2004]. He jumped so high over everything so going at the end of the day in two feet of mud felt like a nice easy round!”

    Two O Two joined Antoinette as a five-year-old and moved quickly up the ranks, finishing 16th in the prestigious seven-year-old World Championship at Le Lion d’ Angers in 1999.  He was 17th at Blenheim in 2000 and was ready to go to Badminton the following year as a nine-year-old — but his owner had named him “Two O Two” for the year he would make his Badminton debut, so he had to wait.

    Having been 12th at Blenheim in 2001, Two O Two made his four-star debut as planned in 2002, with 23rd at Badminton and 20th at Burghley. In all, Two O Two completed Badminton four times and Burghley five times, with seven cross-country jumping clears from his nine finishes. His best results were 12th at Badminton in 2004 and 14th at Burghley in 2007.

    “He used to frighten us — he would lie flat out in the stables. Each year Mrs Murdoch would go to see him and say, ‘I don’t think he’s well, we might have to leave him’ and I would say ‘Let’s get him to the start and see what happens’,” remembered Antoinette. “Once he got to the start of phase A it would take three people to hold him for me to get on.”

    Away from the four-stars, Two O Two won at national level from novice up to advanced, was 11th in the competitive CIC3* at Barbury in 2008 and 12th at the Dutch CCI3* at Boekelo in 2005. He earnt 1123 British Eventing points.

    He continued competing until he was 17, finishing eighth in the CIC2* at Somerley Park and second and third in two open intermediate classes in his final British Eventing season.

    After his retirement, Two O Two returned to the stable he was born in at Dinah Murdoch’s in the village next to Antoinette’s yard. When his breeder died in 2015, she left him to Antoinette in her will and he spent his final couple of years in her yard until old age caught up with him this week

    “He was amazing and to find another one like him is going to be quite rare,” said Antoinette.

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