“He’s Been a Very Dear Friend”: Double Kentucky Winner Cooley Master Class Retires at 17

Oliver Townend and Cooley Master Class. Photo by Shelby Allen.

World Number One Oliver Townend has announced the retirement of seventeen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Cooley Master Class (Ramiro B x The Swallow, by Master Imp), with whom he won the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event in both 2018 and 2019.

“Very emotional to announce the retirement of Cooley Master Class today. We bought him as a 4 year old and he has for the last 13 years been a fantastic competition partner but moreover a very dear friend,” wrote Oliver in a statement on his social media pages. “His competition highlights include back-to-back Kentucky 5* wins, 2nd at Maryland 5*, team silver at the European Championships and 16 international top 10 placings. He’s now 17 years old and although still fit and well, we’ve always said it’s important that he retires from competition on his own terms and we feel that the time has come.”

Oliver Townend and Cooley Master Class, winners of the 2019 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

The gelding, who is owned by Angela Hislop, has been with Oliver throughout his international career, which began auspiciously in May of 2012 with a second-place finish in the CCI2*-L at Ireland’s now-defunct Tattersalls Three-Day Event. Bred by County Wicklow’s John Hagan, he began his early education in the showjumping ring, contesting four-year-old classes under the saddle of Ireland’s Cathal McMunn before spending his five-year-old season with Steven Smith. From there, he was sourced by Richard Sheane of Cooley Farm, who set about placing him with the right rider for the job ahead — and Sheane’s savviness in pairing him with Oliver would yield the Cooley empire its first five-star victory a handful of years later.

Oliver Townend and Cooley Master Class. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography.

Though the gelding has been prolific in his career accomplishments, he’s done so with a remarkably limited number of runs: at seventeen, he retires with just 29 FEI starts under his belt, and would often come out for just a couple of major outings per year, as part of Oliver and his team’s ongoing efforts to manage a number of ‘niggles’. In those 29 starts, he notched up an impressive 15 top five finishes, with two wins at Kentucky, a second place finish at the inaugural Maryland CCI5* last year, and a team silver and individual ninth place at the 2019 European Championships among the highlights of his career.

Oliver Townend and Cooley Master Class. Photo by Abby Powell.

Now, Cooley will step back from competition and enjoy a ‘second career’ as a hacking mount.

“Cooley is a huge character and has always made sure to be a yard favourite, so he will retire to a hacking lifestyle where he’ll continue to be treated and looked after like the king he is,” says Oliver. “I could not be more grateful to have had the honour of partnering Cooley for all these years. He’s achieved more than we could have dreamt of and we’ve literally travelled the world together with memories that’ll last a lifetime! Huge thanks to Angela Hislop, who has co-owned him with me, and who’s just down the road from his retirement home to make sure he stays spoilt rotten! Thanks for everything Cooley, and happy retirement!”