Farm Ireland

Monday 23 April 2018

Good sportsmanship amid firm friends

John Roche with his 2014 Breeders' Champion Assagart My Only Hope
John Roche with his 2014 Breeders' Champion Assagart My Only Hope
Siobhan English

Siobhan English

"When I saw the mare and foal looking so well I told him he would definitely be in the line-up with her," John Roche said of Dermot O'Sullivan and Aidensfield Flamenco after they lifted the Breeders' Championship.

Having won it himself for the first time 12 months earlier with Dermot by his side, John rejoiced when he heard the news filter through to the stables where he was preparing one of his 12 horses for their appearance in Ring 1.

"I was sorry to have missed the class myself, and did not have anything in it, but I was thrilled when the results came through to the stables.

"I knew Dermot was very nervous beforehand but I just told him to enjoy it and make the most of it.

"These wins come once in a lifetime and I know I may never win it again despite having a full yard, so for Dermot to win it with one mare was quite an achievement."

A true sportsman, Wexford-based Roche has had his fair share of victories across Ireland and, despite not winning a championship in Dublin this time round, he was more than content with the reserve two-year-old filly sash he collected with his home-bred Assagart Velvet, by Colin Diamond.

This was in addition to first and second in the middle/heavyweight mares' class with Assagart Saviour and Assagart Sapphire and a win and two placings with his foals.

By Flagmount King, Assagart Saviour is a three-time winner at the RDS. She goes back to the thoroughbred Don Tristan through her dam Assagart Kitty.

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"We bred her back to the thoroughbred Coroner and we were delighted when he finished second in his class as well.

"Some people can let small wins go out over their heads, but for me every win is a good one.

"I've had four good years at Dublin, and will no doubt have a barren one at some stage, so I do not take these good years for granted," he said, adding that his 2014 Breeders' champion Assagart My Only Hope was one who did not feature in the line-up during the week.

"She suffered an injury some time ago so she will probably take another year to come back to herself."

This year she was shown with her colt, also by Coroner, a Group 2 winner standing at Tullougher House Stud in Mullinavat, Co Kilkenny with Denis Phelan.

The Roches' Assagart prefix is rarely out of the ribbons, however, and John was quick to praise his late father Michael for having the wisdom to keep their foundation mare, the six-time Coote Cup winner Assagart Kit all those years ago.

"It is incredible that all our bloodlines go back to that same great mare by the thoroughbred Prince Rois.

"The two-year-old filly that won is by Colin Diamond and her dam Assagart Golden Girl is a grand-daughter of Kit. Golden Girl's sire Pauper is a full-brother to Busted.

"Both were by the great Epsom Derby winner Crepello, proving that the thoroughbred line is still there going strong.

"We have always tried to keep it traditional and I have tremendous good fortune with thoroughbred and Irish Sport Horse sires ever since.

"This year we have also used the thoroughbred Emperor Augustus and both he and Coroner suit our mares very well."

However, Roche makes no secret of the fact that he is concerned about the future of Irish breeding.

He believes that the continued influx of warmbloods is damaging the industry.

"The reason there are there so many warmbloods in Ireland is because no-one in Europe wants a lot of them.

"And what will happen when such top sires as Kings Master, Golden Master and Colin Diamond go?

"There is nothing there to replace them.

"We are already in trouble with our show jumping breeding, and if we are not careful we will lose our eventing status as well.

"I am still confused as to what the Irish Horse Board wants us to do and I am sure there are many others in the same boat.

"The sooner they realise that the better," he concluded.

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