British five-star winner sold as potential Olympic mount – but not leaving his stable

  • MGH Grafton Street, the 2019 Burghley Horse Trials winner with Pippa Funnell, has been sold for Japan’s Yoshiaki Oiwa to ride – but is not leaving Pippa’s yard.

    The 16-year-old was owned by Pippa’s loyal supporters Jane and Jonathan Clarke and the sale went through before the 15 January deadline for transfer of potential Olympic horses, so Yoshi could ride “Squirrel” at Paris 2024.

    “Yoshi’s wife Reiko [Takeda] was here for two years running up to competing in the showjumping at the Rio Olympics and Yoshi was here in 2017. We have stayed in touch all the way through and become good friends,” Pippa told H&H.

    “They were looking at leaving Germany and coming to England for a bit, so they came over to look at schools for their children. While they were here Yoshi sat on a few of our jumpers and Squirrel.”

    At the time, Japan did not hold a team qualification for the Paris Olympic eventing, so Yoshi was not really looking at the horse with a view to buying.

    “I probably wasn’t that helpful because I didn’t feel it would be fair to sell the horse into a different system and yard at his age,” said Pippa.

    In October, Japan gained a qualification for Paris. Yoshi got back in touch with Pippa and it was “mutually decided” that MGH Grafton Street would be sold to him.

    “But the lovely thing is that Squirrel will be staying in his system, in his stable, being looked after by the same people, galloping on the same gallops – the only change is he’ll be ridden by a different rider,” said Pippa.

    Yoshi and his family will rent a house locally to the Funnells. MGH Grafton Street is Yoshi’s only event horse at the moment and his showjumpers will be based with Pippa’s showjumper husband William.

    “So far he has clicked with Squirrel really well and it’ll be very interesting to see how they go. It was all discussed with the Clarkes and I felt Squirrel was down the list for me for Badminton as I will hopefully have a couple of others and he wouldn’t have been my first choice,” said Pippa, who hopes to take five-star stalwart Majas Hope and Bramham Horse Trials CCI4*-L winner MCS Maverick to Badminton Horse Trials if their spring build-up goes well.

    “On his day, we know Squirrel is capable of good results, but he’s never going to get the opportunity to go to a championship with me, whereas if he gets qualified he might have that opportunity with Yoshi.

    “I don’t think the sale would have gone through if he couldn’t have stayed in this system – I wasn’t keen for that and nor were the Clarkes. I get so attached to the horses and even if it’s not tough on them mentally, it would be tough on their bodies at that age to work on different surfaces, have a different fitness regime and so on. We haven’t had to say any sad goodbyes.”

    Yoshi and Squirrel are entered to have their first run together at Poplar Park (2-3 March) in the open intermediate.

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