Farm Ireland

Thursday 18 January 2018

Irish breeders target World Eventing gold

A dozen ISH Studbook six and seven-year-olds will compete at the World Eventing Championships for Young Horses next month

Steven Smith
Steven Smith

Siobhán English

Eight years have passed since an Irish Sport Horse has won gold at the WBFSH World Eventing Championships for Young Horses.

It was back in 2007 when British rider Piggy French steered the Clover Brigade gelding Cast Away II to win the seven-year-old title at Le Lion d'Angers, although Aoife Clark came close to completing an Irish horse/rider victory when second in 2013 with Fernhill Adventure.

Now, Irish owner Diane Harron Eakin is hoping that her home-bred seven-year-old gelding Ringfort Rubicon can better that result when the competition kicks off in France in three weeks' time from October 15-18.

Ringfort Rubicon is one of nine Irish-ridden seven-year-olds selected to represent the ISH Studbook, along with three six-year-olds who have made the cut following impressive performances on the circuit this past summer.

Also among those are the six-year-old Ard Cluedo (Melanie Young) and the year-older Dam Easy (Heidi Hamilton), both runners-up at Millstreet in recent weeks.

"It will be a great week if Rubicon does well," commented Diane, who is taking in her first ever trip to these championships as part of her birthday celebrations when she turns 70 on October 6.

"We had another horse, Tinkabella, qualify in 2006 with our long-time rider Steven Smith but we did not travel that year. She was by our own home-bred stallion Ringfort Tinkatoo and finished 15th back then. We are really looking forward to seeing Steven and Rubicon in action this time round as the horse is one of only a few we've kept for competing over the years. We've always sold our stock as foals so it's nice to have one to support ourselves."

By the hugely popular sire Iroko, Ringfort Rubicon is the second foal out of their former three-star mare Ringfort Rara Ruby.

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By Porsch, Ringfort Rara Ruby too was beginning to make waves on the international circuit before her early retirement through injury in 2007.

Now 17 she has produced five foals since then, and so Diane is delighted that one of her progeny has qualified for these prestigious championships which recognise the best six and seven-year-old young event horses representing no fewer than 20 studbooks each year.

As one of Northern Ireland's most renowned breeders of sport horses for over 30 years, Diane, along with her husband John, has travelled the world to watch many of their home-breds fly the ISH flag. This includes Ringfort Cruise, who show jumped with the Army Equitation School and is the only fully approved Nations Cup son of Cruising standing at stud in Ireland.

"However, it's always fantastic to see them competing at home too and our horses have taken us to parts of Ireland we would never have seen otherwise."

Not surprisingly, given our successful track record as breeders, Ireland has dominated the World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses (WBFSH) Studbook rankings for event horses almost every year since their inception in 1994.

In addition Irish Sport Horses also have a tremendous record at Le Lion d'Angers in the past decade and the ISH Studbook has been placed in the top three every year since, with 2010 being the highlight when they won the title thanks to such superstars as Annie Clover, Billy Shannon and Bay My Hero.

Then only seven, Bay My Hero finished seventh on that occasion behind Annie Clover (Nicola Wilson) in second place, but the Cult Hero gelding later went on to become one of William Fox-Pitt's most consistent event horses with wins at the Rolex and a three-time champion at Tattersalls amongst his notable results.

The following year Annie Clover, by Newmarket Venture, returned to the venue to finish fifth in the seven-year-old category, but that marked the start of a successful few years which has seen her represent the UK at the 2014 World Equestrian Games and wins this year at Bramham and Burgham.

Without doubt the championships have proven, year after year, to be a valuable stepping stone for young event horses and others that have kick-started their careers here include Sandra Auffarth's WEG gold medallist Opgun Luovo, third at Le Lion in 2009.

Two horses ridden to success by the current Olympic and European champion Michael Jung also got their grounding here, with Fischerrocana FST landing the title in 2011 and La Biosthetique Sam runner-up as both a six and seven-year-old.

Earlier this year Fischerrocana FST provided the German with his first ever Rolex win in Kentucky, while La Biosthetique Sam is one of only a few horses to have given their rider both World and Olympic titles, in this case between 2010 and 2012.


When winning the seven-year-old title in 2007 with Cast Away ll, Piggy French made history when becoming the first Briton to wrest the prestigious title out of French hands since 2000. She returned to the same venue 12 months ago in a bid to repeat the feat but instead had to settle for third place with the then six-year-old Cooley Dream Extreme, a talented son of Cruising now eventing in the US with Hannah Sue Burnett.

The best of the Irish riders in that division last year was Aidan Keogh, 21st with Pride of Tredstep, while in the seven-year-olds Cathal Daniels slotted into 16th with Rioghan Rua. Best of the ISH representatives was Cooley SRS, ninth for Oliver Townend.

Among the British contingent this year will be the six-year-old Captain Clover gelding Jump Jet III, another of Piggy French's up-and-coming Irish-breds who has only once been out of the top six on his 12 outings this year.

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