A thorough going over
A combination of stamina, a smart step and ability to jump always wins out
Published 18/05/2016 | 02:30
Time and time again horses with large percentages of thoroughbred blood have proven to shine the best in top-class eventing.
While warmbloods will often have the smart step for dressage and ability to jump, at the end of the day it is a combination of these attributes and sheer stamina that will always win out over three phases when it comes to a four-star competition.
At the recent Badminton Horse Trials, this was displayed once again as all but one of the top-10 on the final day boasted no less than 50pc of thoroughbred blood. In addition three Irish thoroughbreds impressively went on to finish in the top-15.
The best of the trio emerged as Gemma Tattersall in third riding Arctic Soul, an Irish export whose life began here with trainer Colin Murphy.
Bred by Michael Whitty, he is by the 1995 Italian Derby winner Luso out of a mare by Roi Danzig and from the family of Grade 1 winner Arctic Copper. He was unsuccessful in all four starts under National Hunt rules as a five-year-old in 2008 before being sold on. Having briefly passed through the hands of Tomas and Marti Rudd, he was then purchased by Sally and Shaun Parkyn. "We always thought he would be a real star but it took some time to get him jumping," Ms Parkyn said of the bay which was sold on after a few months to Nicky Rincoroni for then-owner Philip Kerr.
Now owned by the Soul Syndicate, the 13-year-old also jumped a superb clear on the final day and is now a promising candidate for the Olympic Games. Interestingly no less than 60pc of thoroughbred blood was to be found in the breeding of the top 12 after the four-mile cross-country phase.
Of the 77 starters in dressage, just 48 remained in competition after cross-country which resulted in 17 eliminations and a further 10 retired on course.
It later emerged that only 11 combinations had escaped both jumping and time penalties. The best of these was British rider Kristina Cook on another Irish thoroughbred, Star Witness.
Lying 42nd after a 49.7 dressage test, the pair made little of the cross-country and the 11-year-old clocked the fastest round of the day with some 18 seconds to spare. This moved them into 14th overnight, eventual finishing seventh.
By the Grade 3 winner Witness Box who stood in Tallow with James Hannon, Star Witness was picked up at Doncaster as an unbroken three-year-old for £9,500 (€12,000). Bred by Andy Leahy, his dam Drive On Rosie, by Glacial Storm, was unplaced on the track but came from a family of multiple winners under National Hunt rules.
The only horse inside the final top-10 to not boast more than 50pc thoroughbred blood was the Irish representative Portersize Just A Jiff, who more than made up for it in bravery.
A half Connemara by Crosskeys Rebel and standing just 153cms he carries some 37.5pc of thoroughbred blood through his dam Mizen Talent - enough to see the combination finish a mere two seconds outside the time allowed of 11mins 58secs. With Irish rider Camilla Speirs, they went on to place a most creditable ninth on the final afternoon.
Just three places behind in 12th was Ben Way on the former Charlie Swan-bred and trained Galley Light.
By Turtle Island out of the Be My Native mare Coola Cross, the 13-year-old had little success on the track here in his seven starts. He is a half-brother to the UK-based chaser I Need Gold, by Gold Well.
Galley Light was originally sold to the UK as hunter in 2010 but showed much promise in eventing and a career switch soon beckoned.
On just their second attempt at Badminton they were just two seconds outside the time allowed on the cross-country and jumped clear on the final day to finish overall 12th.
The last full Irish thoroughbred to win Badminton was Moonfleet in 2006.
Owned by Susan Magnier of Coolmore Stud and ridden by Australian Andrew Hoy, he was by Strong Gale and bred in Co Meath by Basil Brindley out his top racing broodmare Blue Suede Shoes.
After four days of competition it was Michael Jung who emerged best of the remaining group at Badminton this year, with a clear round in the final day's show jumping with La Biosthetique-Sam FBW securing his first ever title of this prestigious event.
In addition he also won the much-coveted Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing for winning Burghley, the Rolex and Badminton consecutively.
The combination now holds the record as one of the most successful of all time in the sport having won World, European and Olympic medals as well as four-star events at Luhmuhlen, Burghley and Badminton.
Registered as a German Warmblood but boasting 76pc of actual thoroughbred blood, Sam's sire is the Irish thoroughbred Stan The Man who also sired such four-star horses as Shear L'Eau and his full-brother Shear H20 while standing here at Lake View Stud in Askeaton, Co Limerick.
The dam sire Heraldik also needs little introduction as one of the leading thoroughbred sires of eventers in recent years.
Speaking on this subject of breeding recently, Michael Jung said: "In a three-star event a horse needs to gallop for seven minutes - a well-trained warmblood can cope with that. But a four-star event requires a horse to gallop for 10 minutes - then you really need a thoroughbred."With the FEI currently reviewing the format for the 2020 Olympics and beyond, with a view to reducing the level to CIC, only time will tell if the demands on eventers at that stage will change. However for now, the influx of thoroughbreds on horses at the highest level of four-star eventing will remain paramount.