Stallions back in the showing ring at the RDS

Absent from RDS Show for the last three years, the return of the Croker Cup competition for showing stallions has been welcomed by sport horse breeders

Champion: Gortfree Hero returns to defend his Irish draught stallion title at this year's Dublin Horse Show
Champion: Gortfree Hero returns to defend his Irish draught stallion title at this year's Dublin Horse Show

Siobhán English

The return of the Croker Cup to the Dublin Horse Show will be welcomed by sport horse breeders throughout Ireland.

Over the past decade this prestigious class for stallions has been won by such notable thoroughbred stallions as Financial Reward, Watermill Swatch and Power Blade.

However, a decline in entries saw the class dropped from the programme in 2012, and the Cup has remained in the vaults of the RDS ever since.

"It was a shame to see it go in the first place, but we are delighted it's back this year. It's important to me as my stallion has had a few foals winning this year already," commented John Varley, owner of Elusive Emir who is among eight lining out in Ring 1 on Saturday afternoon.

Varley's charge was among those who only paraded in 2014, but even that publicity alone was valuable and the fully-approved 11-year-old filled a book of mares for 2015.

"It's important to give us owners a focus and for breeders to see these stallions in the flesh," he added.

Eleven years have passed since Spirit House won here, but the 17-year-old is set to make a return with his handler John Kirwan.

Spirit House joins other such veterans as Aristotle, now 18, and Barbara Hatton's 16-year-old home-bred Golden Master. This hugely popular son of Master Imp has produced several eventers, including Camilla Speirs' young horse BT Cloud Nine.

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Fully approved

Island Commander was the only thoroughbred to have been fully approved at the 2015 stallion inspections and this unraced son of Giant's Causeway should attract much attention for handler Michael Murphy.

Eamon McArdle brings along Mr Big Cat, a Brazilian-bred 11-year-old competed up to intermediate level in eventing by Clayton Fredericks. His second crop of foals is on the ground this year.

James Murphy's Near Dock and Kieran O'Gorman's Munther make up the group which will parade on Friday before contesting the title the following day.

Meanwhile, a busy few days of judging will conclude with the Laidlaw Cup for the champion young horse on Friday morning. Among the entries in the three-year-old division is the 2014 reserve supreme champion Notalot, who will be hoping to make it three-in-a-row following her wins here as both a yearling and two-year-old, and more recently at Bannow and Rathangan Show for owner Rebecca Monahan.

Following on immediately afterwards, the Breeders' Championship is one of the mostly hotly-contested classes taking place on Friday and is also expected to attract a large number of spectators as 18 combinations battle it out for the title.

This year's renewal sees some new and old faces, including the return of 2011 winner Millennium Cruise with her smashing filly foal by the Holstein stallion Ars Vivendi. The mare comes from a winning line as her dam, Greenhall Cailin Deas, also won this accolade in 1998.

The Rothwells also take along Millennium Cruise's half-sister Greenhall Diamond Lady, with her filly by Financial Reward, and their 2013 runner-up Greenhall Indicator with her colt by Querlybet Hero.

Kieran O'Gorman won the title in 2010 with Kildysert Royale and he returns this time with her six-year-old daughter Brookfield Miss Lux and her colt by Munther. However, one to watch will be Patrick Wafer's prolific winner Parkmore Evita, by Ghareeb, and her filly by the deceased Robin De La Maison.

Later on Friday afternoon, Gortfree Hero, the reigning champion and also the winner in 2010, will take on another 15 Irish Draught stallions, including his son Gortfree Lakeside Lad and another double-winner Cappa Cassanova, champion in both 2012 and 2013. He is one of four stallions from the Galway-based Cappa Stud which also take along Cappa Cochise, Cappa Aristocrat and Ballineen It's William. Liam Lynskey's Moylough Bouncer and his stallion son DS Ballagh Bouncer join stablemate Kilcotton Cross, while also entered is Walter Kent's Landsdown.nor Lad.

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