Tamarillo’s clone takes his first eventing win: connections feel he has five-star potential

  • Tamarillo’s clone Tomatillo has won his first event — and his connections believe he has the talent and brain to go a long way.

    The Hon Mr and Mrs Guinness’s eight-year-old stallion, clone of William Fox-Pitt’s Badminton and Burghley-winning ride, topped his novice section at Tweseldown on 20 May with Aaron Millar.

    Aaron, who has jumped clear at both Badminton and Burghley, and represented Britain at junior level, took the ride on “Tom”, last winter; the horse had been competed at BE90 and BE100 level with Melissa Townshend and Bella Innes Ker.

    “He’s been a very good boy,” Aaron told H&H. “I hunted him over the winter and he’s done three events this season, and jumped double clear in all of them.

    “He has all the attributes to be a five-star horse; William’s convinced he will be and he definitely feels like he could be. You have to get inside his head a bit but he’s got the sharpness in his brain, in a good way; he’s so quick with his legs across country and so aware of everything, which makes a phenomenal cross-country horse.”

    Aaron said that not only is Tom identical to Tamarillo in looks, the way he moves and jumps is exactly the same.

    “We have to treat them all as horses in their own right and on how they feel, but I’m constantly on the phone to William to ask what Tamarillo was like with this or that,” he said. “He’s very involved, and he’s great to bounce ideas off. He said Tamarillo was quite tricky in the mouth and Tom’s exactly the same, I ride him in a straight, soft Nathe bit, even across country. I’d rather he took hold on the run than was nervous about what’s in his mouth.

    “I once said to William that Tom can be everything in the same moment; sharp, spooky and lazy, and William laughed and said Tamarillo was exactly the same.”

    Aaron said Tom raises intriguing questions over the nature/nurture debate, and that his career will develop in the way that is best for the horse.

    “We have to treat him as his own horse, and they always tell you when they’re ready to move up,” he said. “He’s phenomenally talented and he doesn’t know the difference between a BE100 and a novice, and won’t between a novice and an intermediate – when he’s ready, he’ll move up. It’s really exciting.”

    Aaron described Tom as “quite cheeky, and with a lot of self-belief, in a good way”.

    “He doesn’t think he’s only 15.3hh,” he said. “I think he thinks he’s about 18.2hh, and sometimes I think to myself it’s as if he’s been there and done it all before, although I know that’s not true!

    “He definitely enjoys it and he loved hunting in the winter; he was always intrigued by watching the hounds work.

    “I’m really excited by him, and very grateful to the Guinnesses [Tomatillo and Tamarillo’s owners and breeders] for giving me the opportunity to produce him.”

    Mary Guinness told H&H: “It’s just been such an unbelievable experience.

    “William was such a partner of Tamarillo, and knew him inside out, and as a result he knows Tomatillo inside out too. Tamarillo was a man’s horse, he was so wilful, and Tomatillo is exactly the same, but Aaron seems to have got to the bottom of him immediately. My fingers are crossed for Aaron, that this is the start of a big run, because he deserves it.”

    Mrs Guinness agrees that the two horses share a mindset, and that Tomatillo has the ability to go to the top.

    “You can see it in him,” she said. “When you see a horse who really makes so little of any kind of track, and takes it in his stride, you can see it’s in him; it’s so obvious how talented he is, and it’s Aaron who’s really bringing it out.

    “Tamarillo would have been lost had William not taken him on; he was full of problems but he took him on and we all know what William did with him.”

    Mrs Guinness said she knows what Aaron means about almost feeling the horse has been here before.

    “We were lucky enough to clone him, but it was a project that William, me and my husband had thought about for a long time,” she said.

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    “A lot of people didn’t really see the point of cloning the horse but if you find one as talented as that and it’s not entire; we really cloned him to be a sire for the stud but we’ve got so into the excitement of competing.

    “Aaron’s absolutely wonderful with Tomatillo; you just stand there and it fills your heart.”

    Mr Guinness added that there were some small and interesting differences between the two horses.

    “Of course Tomatillo is a stallion, so there are some extra complications for him, and he may have a better walk than Tamarillo,” he told H&H.

    “We’ll just have to wait and see [what Tomatillo goes on to do]; you just never know till you get there.”

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