Horse With Classic Background Helps Aussie's Win Gold

By Peter Tonkes
Jeepster had help in providing a third straight Olympic gold medal for Australia's Equestrian team in the three-day event. Yet the failed Thoroughbred upstaged his more vaunted equine team members to be an unlikely hero for Stuart Tinney, who had narrowly missed selection on the winning team at Barcelona. Team Australia defeated Great Britain and the U.S. in the three-day event.

On a team which contained Atlanta Olympic hero and Andrew Hoy-partnered gray superstar Darien Powers, and Kibah Sandstone -- a half brother to winning Atlanta team member Kibah Tic Toc -- the New Zealand bred Jeepster was very much overshadowed.

Now that Jeepster has triumphed, or a least provided a giant assist to the historic team victory, we can reveal that he is a grandson of the champion 3-year-old Grundy, winner of the Epsom Derby and Irish Derby. Jeepster was sired by Gay Apollo, a son of Grundy produced from Gay Missile, a daughter of Sir Gaylord who is a half-sister to Raja Baba. Gay Missile also foaled French champion Gay Mecene (by Vaguely Noble). Despite his swish parentage, Gay Apollo failed to win in eight starts in France and was exiled to New Zealand and relative obscurity.

On his dam's side, Jeepster is distantly related to Melbourne Cup (Aust-I) winners. But the son of the War Hawk (GB) mare Fille d'Anne took a dozen starts to win a maiden as Delphic Oracle before the mercy rule was invoked by his trainer, Irish expatriate Paul Cave, who prepares a string a few miles down the road from Sydney's Equestrian Centre.

The people who recognized Jeepster's eventing and show-jumping potential were Heath and Kris Harris. Heath trained a giant chestnut named Towering Inferno to star in a movie about the legendary Phar Lap.

Tinney bought Jeepster from the Harrises and brought him through several wins in Australia, to finish eighth on him in the 1998 world equestrian titles in Rome, Italy. But the horse fractured a stifle in England last year in his final prep for the prestigious Badminton event. The injury sidelined Jeepster for eight months, but the 35-year-old Tinney gained belated Olympic selection with him with a second success at Lochinvar in a wonderful comeback.

There are a myriad of wonderful stories, and some tragic ones, from the games of the XXVIIth Olympiad. But the tale of the thoroughbred who found other employment by necessity, and overcame injury to reach Olympian heights in his new profession, must be one of the more unusual ones.