Bill Gates' daughter and the $1m Ulster-bred horse she had to own
Tycoon buys Co Antrim-bred grey mare
A beautiful horse reared in Co Antrim has captured the heart of the daughter of the richest man in the world.
Pepperpot, a 13-year-old grey mare raised by Templepatrick showjumper Joanne Sloan-Allen, has been bought by billionaire computer magnate Bill Gates for his oldest girl, Jennifer.
The Gates are likely to have paid in excess of $1 million for the horse for Jennifer, who is dedicated to her blossoming showjumping career.
Joanne, who part-owns Sycamore Stables in the Co Antrim village, is delighted that her beloved beast has found a home where she will be well cared for while winding down from her jump career over the next few years.
Last night she told the Belfast Telegraph that Jennifer Gates had her heart set on buying Pepperpot last year, but she chose another horse instead.
"Jennifer loves the temperament of Irish horses, and she wanted to replace her favourite grey Irish mare," she added.
"That is why Pepperpot fitted the bill. I have had Pepperpot since she was four, and I have produced to the level of an international showjumping horse.
"While it's my business and passion to breed and produce horses to this standard and then sell them when they are about 11 or 12, it was a wrench to let Pepperpot go.
"I was speaking to Jennifer in Spruce Meadows in Canada in June, as she called me to find out more about Pepperpot, as she knew I had produced her for eight years.
"I was reassured that she would be well taken care of and have a nice life when she's finished showjumping.
"Jennifer absolutely loves Pepperpot, and I wish her many successes with her.
"No jump is too big for her to take on and she developed a real fan club with the American kids and became a real little superstar."
The mum-of-three also revealed that Jennifer may be interested in buying a relative of Pepperpot in the next few months.
She added: "Jennifer plans to compete her in Florida, but as she will be studying in Stanford, Pepper will have a relaxed life being pampered and spoiled as there are only so many shows she can do during term time."
Joanne believes that top showjumper Sameh el Dahan managed to bring the very best out of Pepperpot in the ring.
"When Sam took over the reins of Pepperpot from myself, they won World Cup qualifiers and got to the World Cup finals and she brought him to new levels," she said.
Joanne initially sent Pepperpot to Eric Lamaze in Florida, where she was bought for more than $1m by Caitlin Ziegler from quarantine.
Ziegle later decided to give up jumping and rider Tiffany Foster took her over.
Pepperpot was then jetted back to Florida, where Gates is based.
Joanne begins her Moroccan tour of three shows next month with her WKD team, but is in Barcelona this week with her Nations Cup horse.