Mystery surrounds the ownership of the multi-million pound Olympic champion horse Uthopia.
The confusion has arisen after the family of Sasha Stewart — a former Olympic event rider from Richhill, Co Armagh — denied the horse, estimated to be worth more than £7m, belonged to her.
However, records from the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI), the worldwide governing body for all Olympic equestrian disciplines, lists Mrs Sasha Stewart as part owner of the horse from September 2011. She was declared bankrupt in October 2010 with this status being lifted a year later.
Dressage rider Carl Hester, who rode Uthopia to golden glory at London 2012, is also registered in FEI records as part owner.
The ownership of the champion horse was thrown into confusion after the Olympics when Mrs Stewart’s father appeared to distance his daughter from the Dutch-born dressage ace.
In an interview with the Portadown Times, the property developer, whose firm Future Residential Developments was placed into receivership last November, said he was “astounded” at claims Mrs Stewart owned the stallion.
“She never owned Utopia (sic),” he told the newspaper.
“But she’s thrilled to be associated with the whole scenario.”
He added: “With Sasha being such a fine dressage rider, Carl (Hester) and other top people would send their horses here for Sasha to develop them as part of their training. Utopia (sic) was, as far as I recall, a three-year-old and she had quite a bit of local success with the horse. Eventing is a tight world, and Carl was one of her many friends within the sport.”
The FEI database lists the names ‘S Stewart and Mr Harrison’ as Uthopia’s registered owners between January 2009 and April 2010.
And from April 1, 2010 until September 13, 2011, Carl is listed as the sole owner.
And, the website uthopiastallion.com also links Mrs Stewart to the horse with stud enquiries directed to “Sasha’s” voicemail.
In an interview with the Daily Mail, double Olympic champion Charlotte Dujardin, who was part of the Team GB winning dressage team, said: “I don't own the horse. Carl (Hester) and Roly Luard own Valegro and Sasha Stewart owns Uthopia. That is between them.”
Uthopia and Carl Hester helped Team GB clinch first place in the grand prix dressage event at London 2012 and it is understood Mrs Stewart and members of her family were at the Greenwich Park venue to cheer the horse on to victory earlier this month.
Respected magazine Horse and Hound has also been asking questions about the ownership of Uthopia in its most recent edition.
Equine lawyer Jacqui Fulton — who represents Carl Hester — told the magazine that Mrs Stewart does not own Uthopia.
“What Sasha is saying is, she sold the horse a number of years ago to a private investor, but she’s always been named as the owner because the investor is happy with it.
“But, in reality, she doesn’t own the horse.”
In August 2011, in an interview with Horse and Hound dressage editor Alice Collins, Sasha Stewart said that she owned the horse “100%”.
The Belfast Telegraph has made several attempts to contact Mrs Stewart.
Horse and Hound was also unable to reach her for comment but her solicitor Brian Speers told the magazine that “complexities arise sometimes in establishing ownership of horses”.
“There are investigations and discussions ongoing with a view to resolving matters quickly,” he added.
Mr Speers said any sale of Uthopia could not take place until the question of ownership was resolved.