Writes Susan Finnerty


Madra Rua, the 2024 Balmoral supreme hunter champion bred by Paul Cleary with Aimee Stunt aboard and Gail Boyd, representing sponsors Creightons. © Susan Finnerty

They say that, “After bad luck comes great luck” and for midlands man Paul Cleary, that upturn happened at Balmoral Show as he bred this year’s supreme champion hunter: Madra Rua.
Now owned by Amanda Benson in Bennettsbridge, the reserve champion lightweight himself reversed fortunes as he was promoted to overall champion. “He was ridden by Aimee Stunt and produced by Aimee and myself,” said producer Brian Murphy who bought the Dublin-bound chestnut five-year-old last September.
The Balmoral title is a posthumous honour for the supreme champion’s sire Loughehoe Guy, (a full-brother to the Barcelona Olympics show jumping individual bronze medal winner Irish), who stood with Sean Lydon at Watervalley Stud.
“I bought the dam Glenkeeran Danceintherain as a three-year-old off her breeder John and Marie Melvin in Ardee and I showed her that year. She was champion young horse at Athenry and Mullingar, then I put her in foal as a four-year-old. I sell them all as foals and [Clohamon Stud’s] Michael Murphy buys a lot of foals off me, he went to Jill Day actually,” Paul said about Madra Rua, which means ‘fox’ in Irish.
The Melvins are great fans of Crosstown Dancer so no surprise to see the five-time Dublin winner appearing as the sire of Glenkeeran Danceintherain, bred by Teresa Reilly.
Ard VDL Douglas, (the sire of Suma’s Zorro whose retirement ceremony also took place at Balmoral), and Clover Hill appear in her back pedigree.
“I showed him once as a foal in Athlone and he won,” Paul recalled about the future Balmoral champion.
Glenkeeran Danceintherain is due to foal next week to Kylemore Stud’s Cornerado VDL. Unfortunately, Paul, who has eight broodmares, lost his 2019 Coote Cup champion Lady Fassagh (Porsch x Crosstown Dancer) recently after post-foaling complications. “She was up in the Curragh for a week afterwards but we had to put her down. She left us a cracking filly though, by Good Luck VDL. She’s the very same as her mammy.”

Polly Coles’ Endeavour R, the 2023 supreme hunter champion, stood reserve last week and after Greenacres Special Cavalier’s Badminton win, is by the talking sire of the moment: Cavalier Royale.
Endeavour R’s dam is Cushinstown Diamond (Diamond Rock x Orchestra). Again showing the value of prefixes, no prizes for guessing the Balmoral heavyweight champion was bred by Simon McCarthy. He also bred the Lanaken medal winner Master Ballinteskin.

Over the fences
Another eventing sire Wish Upon A Star produced the working hunter champion: Ciaran Feldman’s U.K-bred KBF Paved With Stars, winner of the seven-year-olds and over class with Orla Geraghty. In reserve was Melissa O’Connor Murphy’s Darcy De Chanteloube, bred in France, and ridden by Melissa’s daughter Jessica.

Woods Rosbotham and his daughters Barbara (left) and Lisa (right) are pictured with the RUAS president John Henning OBE and Diane Gibson, Balmoral performance championship chief steward. (Photo: Susan Finnerty)

The 2024 Defender Kentucky Three-Day-Event champion Cooley Rosalent had her first big win at Balmoral as a four-year-old in the young event horse classes. In a fitting presentation, her breeder Woods Rosbotham and his daughters Lisa and Barbra were lauded for the mare’s five-star win at Lexington, Kentucky.
The ceremony took place during the Balmoral Star of the Future young event horse classes and her success has meant big horseshoes to fill for this year’s winners: Alyssa O’Neill’s Dermish Coney (five-year-olds) and John Simpson’s aptly-named Somerville Springheeled (six/seven-year-olds).
Dermish Coney was bred in the Banner County by Susan Moloney and is by Lancelot (KWPN) and is the first foal of his O.B.O.S Quality x Cruising dam, Quality Cruising.
Alyssa had a busy Balmoral week, also placing fourth in this class with owner-breeder Liam Lynskey’s DS Are You Tom (DS Are You With Me x Cruising) and then placing third with her own DS Candescent (Sligo Candy Boy x Cruising), another bred by Lynskey and another with a Cruising damsire, in the Spillers six & seven-year-old show jumping championship.
The next main target for John Simpson’s traditionally-bred Somerville Springheeled (Uskerty Diamond Lad x Footstepsinthesand), ridden by Jonathan Steele, is Millstreet International.
“My son used to event as a junior and young rider so I bought him a thoroughbred mare with lovely paces down in Goresbridge. I bred from her and this is her first foal. I’m looking to sell him, or take someone in with me, and he’ll go to the two-star in Millstreet next.”

Irish Draught performance champion Ardnacashel Monarch and Emma Jackson on their victory gallop © Susan Finnerty

Two more Balmoral championships decided over fences were the native breeds performance classes.
In the Irish Draught performance championship, both the supreme and reserve came from the six-year-old and over class. Rachael Dickson’s seven-year-old stallion Ardnacashel Monarch (Beechmore Silver Crest x Star Kingdom) won the championship with Emma Jackson aboard and in reserve was Blue Gate Stud’s year-younger Clandeboye (Scrapman x Western Light), ridden by Louise Lyons.
“I purchased him as a foal at Cavan Equestrian Centre. I was in love with his presence and his step was amazing, which he passes to his offspring. He has a beautiful quality head. He scored the highest in his jumping on selection day for the stallion grading as a three-year-old,” said Janice Reddy, owner of his Ardnacashel Equestrian Centre base.
“This year has been his first real outings as he has been given time to mature. I believe there is lots to come from this special boy with the kindest temperament,” she added about the recent winner at Lusk EC’s May Day Show and Cavan.
The champion was bred in Co. Donegal by John Joe Trearty.
Miriam Burney bred the reserve champion of the two Irish Draught performance classes, which attracted a total of 36 entries.

The late Bernard Byrne at Balmoral last year with his daughter Alicia and their evergreen Blackwood Fernando after their Connemara working hunter championship win, repeated this year by the pair © Susan Finnerty

Going native
The other native breed performance championship, this time for Connemara ponies, was a bittersweet result for Wicklow schoolteacher Alicia Devlin Byrne. 12 months ago, she and the evergreen Blackwood Fernando won the same title with her late father and righthand man Bernard watching on.
Owned by her mother Claire, the 27-year-old Blackwood Fernando (Ferdia x Mervyn Pookhaun) was bred by Patrick McNamara and is a four-legged testament to the longevity of the Connemara pony.
“Yeah, it was a very emotional one for me. I was debating whether I should retire ‘Fred’ without Dad minding him. He loved every minute of it though, as usual, so I’m glad I made the right decision,” commented Alicia.

Somerville Springheeled, with Jonathan Steele aboard and owner-breeder John Simpson, winner of the Balmoral Star of the Future six/seven-year-old final © Susan Finnerty

The reserve Connemara working hunter title went southwards too when Roscrea owner Cathy Cooper’s Tullaree Fear Bui stood reserve. Ridden by her daughter Ellie Rogan, the 11-year-old was bred by Clive Swindell, owner of the brilliant Cul Bán Mistress. Tullaree Fear Bui is by the prolific Connemara performance stallion Templebready Fear Bui.

Irish Horse Board chairman Tiernan Gill presents the Coote Cup to owner Yvonne Pearson after Kief Queen B, shown by Lesley Webb, was the Dublin broodmare champion in 2018. The Munther mare is the year’s Balmoral broodmare champion © Susan Finnerty.

On the flat, the native ridden champions also took pride of place in the main arena’s parade of champions.
Jennie Curran’s seven-year-old Caherpuca Chappy (Coolin America x Rebel Justice), bred by Michael & Kendra Rabbitte, was this year’s ridden Connemara champion, ahead of Grace Maxwell Murphy’s Glencarrig Princess Ella, a six-year-old by breeder Gearoid Curran’s own Glencarrig Knight.
Both low-maintenance native breeds have enjoyed a huge resurgence in popularity and the well-supported ridden Irish Draught classes attracted good entries.
Here, the champion was Victoria Teuton’s home-produced five-year-old Shannaghmore Inferno (Kiltealy Silver x Grange Bouncer) bred in Co. Carlow by Liam O’Brien.
The sight of the versatile Irish Draught stallion Grange Bouncer in the champion’s pedigree is also a timely opportunity to pay tribute to his late owner Jack Lambert, a stalwart supporter of hunting and Irish horses, who passed away last week.
In reserve was another eye-catching chestnut: Sarah Russell’s Dowdstown PJ (Carrabawn Cross x Crosstown Dancer), bred by James Hoare.

A good prophet
Early in the show season, the Balmoral breeding stock classes do not draw great numbers. However at the start of the ‘production line’, Wednesday morning’s champions included Kief Queen B (non-thoroughbred broodmare) and Castleview Lady Georgina (Irish Draught broodmare).
Kief Queen B (Munther x Kings Master) has been a prolific winner for her Newtownards owner Yvonne Pearson, who bought her from renowned Mayo exhibitor Anthony Gordon.
A winner of the 2018 Coote Cup broodmare championship at Dublin, the same year as she was the ridden hunter mare reserve champion, Kief Queen B was bred in West Cork by Kieran Fahey.
The reserve broodmare champion was Paula Howard’s Dernahatten Out Of Touch (Bienamado x Creevagh Into Touch).

Longtime Balmoral exhibitor Paula Howard reacts when her Tullabeg Hello is announced as this year’s Balmoral young horse champion © Susan Finnerty

The Irish Draught champion mare title went to Castleview Lady Georgina (Castleview Inisfree Farmer x Coolcronan Wood), owned by Valerie Davis and bred by Wendy & Kenny Bell. In reserve was Ronan Stynes & Linda O’Byrne’s Lilliputs Top Dollar (Scrapman x Moylough Bouncer), bred by Seamus Heffron.
Paula Howard’s Balmoral big moment happened in the young horse classes when her Tullabeg Hello, “Patsy to her friends,” won the three-year-old, filly and overall supreme championships.
“As ever, all credit is due to David Lyons [who shows her horses] and Gillian, his wife and my god-daughter. They do all the work, as the horses live with them. I owe them both so much.”
“David bought Tullabeg Hello from [breeder] Nicholas Cousins as a yearling. Last year, I asked him to find me a nice lightweight mare, and he said, ‘What about
buying my two-year-old?’ So I said yes, and bought her last September. He said, ‘She’ll win at Balmoral’ – turns out he was a good prophet!”
“Plans are to show her lightly this year, hopefully Dublin and then breed from her.”

Judges Angus McDonald and Henrietta Knight present Davy Lyons and Tullabeg Hello with the Balmoral young horse trophy © Susan Finnerty

The Balmoral champion will be a future successor to her good servant Dernahatten Out Of Touch.
“AKA Martha – I had a mare called Mary at the time, so Martha seemed the obvious choice! I bought her from her breeder, Padraig McKernan, as a three-year-old in 2016 with David’s approval, of course.”
A two-time Balmoral winner and champion in 2018, Dernahatten Out Of Touch also won the middle/heavyweight broodmare class at Dublin in 2022 and this year has a Tiger Attack colt foal at foot.
It was also a good run in the young stock classes for Ballybofey owner Valerie Davis. Her Cloughroe Forget Me Not (Lucarelli x Colin Diamond), one of the few traditional-breds amongst the Balmoral young horse entries, won the yearling filly class, the home-bred championship and two reserve champion ribbons in the filly and overall young horse championship.

For all the Balmoral prizewinners, see the results pages at: