Nicknamed Tiny at home, this stallion is a fighter in the ring but an affectionate softy in the stable. Jennifer Donald meets Denis Lynch’s Tokyo prospect
Height: 176cm (nearly 17.2hh)
Breeding: KWPN by Numero Uno out of Volstelle (by Voltaire)
Rider: Denis Lynch (Ireland)
Breeder: Wilma Wigink-Markvoort (Netherlands)
Owner: Onyx Consulting
Greatest achievements: won CSI5* grand prix, Saint-Tropez (September 2020), won the CSI5* Golden Drum of Basel (January 2020); jumped in top-league Nations Cups and won the silver medal at the Dutch championships with Kevin Jochems (2019).
Rider Denis Lynch
“I BOUGHT Cristello in November 2019 with the 2020 Olympics in mind, but their cancellation probably worked in our favour as it’s given me more time to get to know him.
“Dutch riders Leon Thijssen and Kevin Jochems had done a fantastic job with him – he has an incredibly strong mentality, he really wants to do the job and his will to win is incredible. But his biggest strength is probably his weakness – he’s so eager to get on and do it and when he gets going, you’re going too!
“So the majority of the time I’m telling him to stay with me – in the warm-up, I never really want to wake him up because when the bell goes, he’s ready and he’s off.
But he’s lovely to work with – my wife and daughter ride him at home and he has a female handler, and although he’s massive, he’s very gentle.
“The jump-off he won in Saint-Tropez was exceptional – he’d be by far the slowest horse in it but I asked him to do things that for a smaller horse would be much easier and I was very impressed; the turn-back is what he does very well and he finds it easy to take out a stride.
“He really benefits from being up and running in the ring so the stop-and-go of the last year wasn’t beneficial. We gave him a good rest in the winter to collect semen – his first crop of foals is due in 2022 – and now we’re just getting going again, trying to work back from Tokyo. The last time I jumped at a championship we won a gold medal so I’d like to be part of that again.”
Groom to Cristello: Gwendoline Bellamy
“I’M really proud to be by Cristello’s side, he’s an amazing horse, just a lovely giant. What I love most is his kindness – even if I’m stressed it’s like he says: ‘Don’t worry, Mum, everything’s OK.’ I do get particularly nervous when he’s in the ring, more than any of my other horses, but I have to stay focused to video his round, which helps me relax a bit.
“He loves going to shows but he also likes spending quiet time at home. But when he knows we’re heading in the direction of grass, nothing can stop him – it’s his favourite thing and he can’t hide his joy when his stable door opens! He has a funny habit of stopping to observe everything – like he wants to know everything about everyone and it makes me laugh.
“My favourite moment is when I arrive in the morning and open his door, he comes and puts his head down to my height and I kiss him on the forehead – it’s just me and him in our own special moment.”
Cristello’s previous rider Kevin Jochems
“I WAS working for Leon Thijssen, who rode Cristello, when my best horse Captain Cooper got sold at the end of 2018 so he gave me Cristello instead.
“It took a bit of time to get to know each other – he’s not difficult, but he’s big and strong and it was about four or five months before he understood what I wanted and we had the control in place. Once we’d found each other, he developed very well and finished second at the Dutch championships – he didn’t knock a pole in four rounds at the highest level.
“He had never actually jumped at the top level before I rode him but we enjoyed a really nice summer with a few placings in five-star grands prix and Nations Cups.
“He’s an unbelievable fighter. He gives everything in the ring, every time, more than any horse I’ve ridden.
“I left Leon before Cristello was sold but I’m proud to see how he’s gone on. I’ve actually had a few horses that went to Denis after – he’s an amazing rider and it’s nice to watch his partnership with Cristello.”
You can also read this feature in the 27 May issue of Horse & Hound magazine.
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