Think December 15th… coming towards the end of the cold snap… postcard scenes all around us, skating rinks rather than roads, bucketing water to thirsty Thoroughbreds for many of us!
In one pocket of Kildare however, a plan was being kept on course for a night with the stars! Some of Ireland’s greatest jockeys had agreed to ride a Thoroughbred as part of the Treo Eile Pro-Celebrity Show Jumping extravaganza! To be precise… Rachel Blackmore, Dylan Browne McMonagle, Nina Carberry, Paul Carberry, Gary Carroll, Colin Keane, Patrick Mullins, Aine O’Connor, Robbie Power and Davy Russell had all agreed to be part of this special night. A glittering line up of Champions.
They were all definitely coming despite the weather. Them, alongside 20 professional event riders who were bringing their own competing Thoroughbreds and a further 10 young riders who were bringing their ponies. All would compete together on a pre-selected team of four. The aim would be to pop around a 90cm show jumping track with the second part timed! Best three competitor results to count in traditional Nations Cup style.
After much debate and many attempts to thaw out the warm up arena, it was show day!
Spectators began to file in to watch the evening’s entertainment which kicked off with the Moyglare Parade of Champions. Eight top performers strutted around the arena with commentary from Kevin O’Ryan and Brendan McArdle on their glittering racing careers. At one stage, Kevin even hopped up onto Sizing John to the delight of the crowd, performing a fabulous stirrupless sitting trot he should be proud of!
WATCH THE PARADE https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=5884871424927833
Champions also included the great Hurricane Fly who forms part of the National Stud’s Living Legends team and Irish Grand National winner General Principle who shone upon the showing circuit in 2022, peaking with victory in the prestigious Racehorse to Riding Horse class at the RDS! Recently retired Al Boum Photo, Douvan, Woodland Opera, and Royal Diamond also joined the fun but it was Tiger Roll who stole the show! The horse may be small but the character is mighty and it took two handlers to keep him in check; proud as punch of himself he let out a few bucks for the Christmas spirit! Such fun to watch and what a crowd puller he is.
Alongside the Champs we felt it was important to highlight a horse that hadn’t shone on the track, but was loving his new life as a dressage horse. Star of Rubykan had won several of the Treo Eile Dressage prizes aimed at retrained racehorses in 2022 and his owner, Myriam Bunter, has had wonderful fun retraining the son of Arakan.
The teams were made up of four compeitors, a jockey as captain, two pro-riders and a child. We were honoured this year that one of our pro-riders happened to be an Irish international show jumper who flew in from her UK base especially to be with us. Rising star and Galway native, Jessica Burke, who already has many Show Jumping accolades to her name, joined Brendan McArdle for a course walk, highlighting the stride patterns between the fences and what were the quickest turns to take in the timed part of the track. Fascinating insight for everyone.
Action began at 6pm with the first team called the JONBONS, captained by leading amateur Aine O’Connor, who rode Ordinary World (a Milan gelding who had won a few races for Henry de Bromhead). This team set the bar with three clear rounds between them: Ian Cassells on board Daly Dilemma and Rachel O’Callaghan on Justbecool who both were trained by Ciaran Murphy’s Charlestown Racing yard in Mullingar. The trainer is a former event rider himself and clearly knows where his horses will work best in their subsequent careers.
The youngest team member also found it very easy on her pony Ravara Mohawk. Lucia Keane is a regular on the Show Jumping Ireland circuit and is destined for great things thanks to the guidance of her parents, former amateurs and now Ballinroe Transport owners, Patrick and Susan Keane.
Clear rounds were hard fought after that debut team however, and some navigational issues also impacted as the technical turns were missed or jumped in the wrong direction!
Jockey award of the night should go to Champion Apprentice Dylan Browne McMonagle on board a former Joseph O’Brien-trained grey called Cobb & Co. The former pony racer was a nervous passenger as he had never jumped around a full course of jumps before! However, it didn’t affect him as the combination were flying and only tapped the one pole for 4 penalties.
Many of the jockeys had ridden in a show jumping capacity before at some stage of their lives, but most had never met their horses before the evening. So without an outdoor warm up – thanks to Jack Frost – it was a great credit to them all to show their inherent horsemanship skills.
Thick and fast the competitors came and with only 15 clears on the night, the times became important. Fastest child on the night was the incredible Sam Widger, completing the track in 24.88 aboard his top jumping pony Creevelea Fire Fox.
Final scores on the doors were as follows:
1st place JONBONS (Aine O’Connor, Lucia Keane, Ian Cassells, Rachel O’Callaghan, )
2nd place LAGOONS (Robbie Power, Phonsie Wardell, Sarah Wardell, Lucca Stubington)
3rd place HONEYS (Rachel Blackmore, Mia de Bromhead, Ali Keating, Olivia Swan)
Congratulations to all riders, we felt it was a night full of fun with a great sense of atmosphere. This show is a fundraiser, but more importantly, an awareness event to highlight the opportunities available to retiring racehorses and the fun they can continue to give long after their racing days are over. Many of the horses jumping were ordinary performers on the track and it is a pleasure to watch them convert so easily and willingly into fabulous leisure horses.
The front cover of the event’s program was an unsold Thoroughbred named Quingenti (by September Storm) who, with his partner Lucca Stubington, has climbed the eventing ranks to compete at five star level, regularly jumping 1.20m tracks.
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