Horses at their best
Irish horses have always been world-beaters, so it was no surprise to see two of them helping their riders to Olympic silver medals in eventing in London.
Years of hard work are paying off for our Olympic competitors, as the medals start to come — and what about our Irish horse breeders?
High Kingdom, bred by William Micklem, Annacrivey Stud, Enniskerry, Co Wicklow, has been one of the heroes for the British fans — carrying Queen Elizabeth II’s granddaughter, Zara Phillips, to a silver team medal in eventing.
The 11-year-old gelding is by Master Imp (TB), out of the Chair Lift (TB) mare, High Dolly (ISH).
High Kingdom carried Zara Phillips through a penalty-free cross-country section of the eventing competition, despite losing both of his front shoes, and his rider said he overcame his inexperience, kept trying, and coped well with the atmosphere.
Among their silver-winning team mates were Mary King and Imperial Cavalier (ISH), bred by John Brennan, Ballyscanlon, Tramore, Co Waterford.
Imperial Cavalier (ISH) is by Cavalier Royale (HOLST) out of Gene Pool (ISH), by Imperious (TB).
Since his return from injury in March 2010, Imperial Cavalier has achieved top placings at some of the world’s most challenging international events, including sixth at the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Kentucky, helping Great Britain win team gold.
Mary King and Imperial Cavalier (ISH) finished individual fifth in London.
The London Olympic Games has further strengthened the reputation of the Irish Sport Horse Studbook.
That’s good news for an estimated 16,000 full-time jobs, in every parish and village on the island where the sport horse is bred, raised and trained, which adds up to a €400m per annum business.
The British eventing silver medal will add to that business, because the UK is a huge outlet for Irish-bred horses.
Eleven of the top 15 stallions of seven and eight-year-old event horses in the UK are the progeny of stallions standing in or which stood in Ireland.
Eight of the top 15 sires of five and six year-olds are by Irish stallions.
The silver medal will bring more buyers of event horses to Ireland.
The industry was boosted also by yesterday’s bronze medal winning performance by showjumping rider Cian O’Connor.
That served to again highlight the calibre of Irish horsemen, in the year when Co Tipperary horse trainer Aidan O’Brien is odds-on to bridge a 42-year gap by winning the British Classics triple crown, with Camelot.
Of course, it was the same stable at Ballydoyle, Co Tipperary, that supplied the 1970 triple crown winner, Nijinsky (the first since 1935), trained by Vincent O’Brien.
In 2012, it is a measure of the strength and global stature of the Irish-based Coolmore racing empire that they can afford the commercial risk of going for what would be a huge slice of racing history with Camelot.