GILLIAN Kyle popped down from Co Wicklow to the bottom of Co Wexford on Wednesday to judge the third leg of this year’s Balmoral Star of the Future performance horse championships. On a wet day at Wexford Equestrian, Kyle had 14 five-year-olds and 17 six and seven-year-olds to assess.

Noel Dunne, who had an even shorter journey from Taghmon, was an emphatic winner of the five-year-old qualifier with Belline Equestrian’s Irish Sport Horse gelding Kief Rhapsody who scored an amazing 96.5 marks out of 100. The brown son of Sligo Candy Boy lost just .5 of a mark in five of the six categories – conformation and type, paces, jumping scope and technique, way of going plus potential and star quality – but a whole one mark for his gallop!

As his name suggests, Kief Rhapsody was bred in Co Cork by Kieran Fahey and is the only produce registered on CapallOir out of Lissangle Lux The Business. That 2007 Lux Z mare won twice and was placed on numerous occasions when campaigned under Eventing Ireland rules from 2013 to 2015 by Rosemarie Ahern O’Gorman following a successful showing career.

Also qualifying for the Balmoral final were Melanie Wrynn with husband Neil’s ISH gelding Ardeo On Q (91.5), an OBOS Quality 004 bay out of the Canturano mare Ashton Ena, and Belline Equestrian’s new resident rider, Robbie Kearns, with the ISH mare Belline Thistle Bethelasttime (89.5). The latter, a daughter of Grafenstolz, is out of Karmyn (by Kannan).

Belline Equestrian was also well-represented in the six and seven-year-old qualifier but here their best-placed horse, the Patrick Byrne-partnered Belline Newmarket Delight (92 marks), had to settle for second behind KinCooley Candy Girl (96) who was ridden for Cooley Farm by resident jockey, Amanda Goldsbury.

A six-year-old ISH mare by Sligo Candy Boy, the winner was bred in Co Kildare by Vincent Loftus. She is out of the Luidam mare Kilrainey Flight and is thus a full-sister to the 2015 gelding Wolf Of Wall Street 3 who was ridden by Germany’s Zoe Osterhoff at the world breeding championships for young show jumpers in Lanaken last year.

KinCooley Candy Girl has yet to compete in any affiliated competitions unlike Belline Newmarket Delight who has 15 EI points and 27 Show Jumping Ireland points to his credit. By Newmarket Venture out of the Castlecomer Q mare Obrian Delight, the chesnut recorded two EI wins last season including in a 34-runner EI110 at Frankfort Stud in July.

Fraser Duffy finished third on Carol Gee’s ISH gelding Fernhill Count On Me (91), one of the top performers last year on the young horse circuit.

The son of Chacoa, who is out of an Aldatus Z mare, ended 2022 with victory in the Horse Sport Ireland dressage autumn development series for five-year-olds and by winning two legs of the corresponding eventing series. Last May, under Italy’s Luca Bortolamei, Fernhill Count On Me won the four-year-old Star Of The Future championship at Balmoral and, two months later, the Dubarry Burghley young event horse qualifier for his age group at Tattersalls.