Billy Twomey and Ardcolum Duke (ISH) [TIH] © Susan Finnerty

Bred by the Roscommon farmer and coal miner Joe Flynn, he was the horse that won over €250,000 around the globe with Billy Twomey. One of the few fully approved Traditional Irish Horse stallions in the country, Ardcolum Duke is the kind of story that the ‘ordinary breeder’ dreams about.

“It’s an extra bit of pride to have bred Ardcolum Duke, I would count myself lucky to have him,” said Joe, who worked in Arigna coal mines for 30 years before its closure.

A small farmer, Joe bought Dangerous Lady, Ardcolum Duke’s dam, at Claremorris Sales.
By Clover Hill, her unrecorded pedigree goes back to both Middle Temple, (sire of John Whitaker’s Dortmund World Cup qualifier winner Clonee Temple and Nicola McIrvine’s Badminton champion Middle Road) and Ideal Water, a rare sport horse son of Water Serpent.
“It was a lot of money at the time!” said Joe at the €1,900 for the yearling filly. However Joe’s investment paid off when, as a five-year-old, Dangerous Lady and Padraig Judge won the Grade D/E championship at Dublin.

Difficult to get in foal, Joe persevered with the mare and after running out with a Connemara stallion, Dangerous Lady produced her first foal by Brian Boru. Her next foal was Ardcolum Duke, foaled in 2004.
“He’s by Gypsy Duke when the horse stood in Co Monaghan with Sam Burgess.”
Gypsy Duke was by The Conqueror, a King of Diamonds grandson, and another rare sighting in an Irish pedigree now is of Gypsy Duke’s damsire, the thoroughbred Go Tobann, sire of Eddie Macken’s Kerrygold.
Great traditional bloodlines that started to be backed up by performance, when Ardcolum Duke, named after his breeder’s home address, started off on the Irish circuit.

“It’s an extra bit of pride to have bred Ardcolum Duke, I would count myself lucky to have him,” said Joe, seen here with his press cuttings collection at Cavan in 2019. © Susan Finnerty

“He did nothing as a youngster and then Shane Quinn took him to his first show at Turlough Equestrian Centre. I rang Jimmy McDermott [Shane’s father-in-law] and said, ‘How did you get on?’
“I thought he might say he was no good but instead he said, ‘You should have been there, the horse was jumping out of his skin!”’

Like any promising youngster, word spread about the horse and after his first Mullingar Grand Prix outing, Barry O’Connor was amongst those who enquired about Ardcolum Duke. Victoria Golden and Shane Goggins were two other riders to have produced Ardcolum Duke on the national circuit.
The next was Billy Twomey, who took the horse on a four week trial as Joe was still keen not to sell him.
Lisa Molloy, Joe’s neighbour who set up the Ardcolum Duke Facebook page, remembers a phonecall from Cheshire shortly afterwards. “Billy rang me and said, ‘Do you think Joe will mind the horse flying?’ And I said, “No, where are you thinking of taking him?’ ‘China!’ He had him only about six weeks and brought him to Shanghai on the Global Champions Tour where he won €48,000”

Where else did Ardcolum Duke compete at with Twomey, mainly as his speed horse? Amsterdam, Barcelona, Basel, Falsterbo, Geneva, Gijon, Hickstead, Hong Kong, Horse of the Year Show, La Baule, La Coruña, Leipzig, Lyon, Paris, Rome, Spruce Meadows, Stuttgart, Verona, Zurich and of course on home ground at Dublin and Millstreet.

“He had a couple of great wins and results in Dublin. I was very proud of him as he was going to the last fence in the Accumulator and he ended up winning it that year,” said the unassuming Joe, who paid for his and wife Tess’s grandstand tickets to watch their horse, instead of the international owners box!
Another proud ‘home ground’ occasion was Ardcolum Duke’s win in the 1.60m Grand Prix at Millstreet International CSI3* in 2015.

According to Hippomundo, the Belgian database, Ardcolum Duke paid his way by winning €235,919 in prize money. From his 186 recorded outings, including his peak year of 2016, he was placed in 89 (48%) competitions, giving the traditional-bred a Hippomundo Lifetime Rating (HLR) of 102.
Available by A.I, in latter years, he stood with his owner in Arigna and more recently with Colm Flynn in Foxford, Co. Mayo.

Chris Ryan of the Traditional Irish Horse Association (TIHA) had this to say about the five-star rated stallion after a presentation at the Dublin Horse Show in 2017: “He’s one of the best 1.45m horses in the world, he and Billy are practically unbeatable and what a superb horse he is. So the presentation made to Joe at Dublin was in appreciation for what he’s done for traditional breeding.”

Joe Flynn pictured with Irish Horse Board Director General Alison Corbally © Susan Finnerty

Alison Corbally, the Irish Horse Board Director General, paid tribute to the late Ardcolum Duke today, saying: “ He epitomised all the attributes of traditionally bred horses, the will and ability to win in all types of competitions from speed classes to 1.60m Grand Prix’s. Meeting his breeder Joe Flynn at the Cavan stallion inspections in 2019 and seeing the scrapbooks of cuttings about Ardcolum Duke is a reminder of the pride and passion of Irish horse breeders. Ardcolum Duke’s story is one that gives us all striving to bred a top horse continued hope for the future, the small dedicated Irish breeder has every chance of achieving success. Dangerous Lady was nearly sold to Switzerland but thanks to Joe’s dedication she stayed in the country instead.”