GALWAY’s Grace Maxwell Murphy and her husband William McMahon have enjoyed a very successful campaign with the home-bred Gleann Rua Da Vinci who left Ireland this week to join the Robert Walker yard having won the TopSpec show hunter championship in the Main Arena at the Dublin Horse Show last Saturday morning.

By the Dutch Warmblood stallion Camilla VDL, the seven-year-old had a quiet start to his showing career because of Covid but his owner/breeders’ patience was rewarded this season. The bay middleweight was champion hunter, and champion working hunter, at Athenry and Mullingar before taking the champion hunter title at the Flavours of Fingal show which qualified him for the Connolly’s Red Mills champion of champions final at the Tattersalls Ireland July show.

An initiative of Showing Ireland, this series proved an excellent form guide for Dublin this year with Gleann Rua Da Vinci, who had been very much a talking horse to this point, taking the ridden hunter finale ahead of the Aubrey Chapman-partnered Sleehaun Dancer, a Numero Cruise grey who won his five-year-old lightweight class at Dublin last week.

Third in that Red Mills final, but champion hunter at the Co Meath show, was the OBOS Quality 004 gelding Bloomfield Distinction who was ridden for owner Daphne Tierney by his Co Wicklow producer, Jane Kennedy.

At Dublin, this 2017 gelding, who was champion at Balmoral last September, first won his five-year-old and upwards heavyweight class ahead of the seven-year-old Pollux de Muse Z gelding Mr Ramsey, produced and ridden by Brian Murphy for owners Terry and Sally Johnston and this pair finished in the same order in the heavyweight championship.

Action early on Saturday morning got underway with the mares’ championship which was judged by all ride and conformation judges.

Their choice of champion was the older lightweight mares’ class winner, Patrick Martin’s Lady Bell, while their reserve was the Rachel Moore-owned and -ridden Drumlane Hiello.

This 2018 Hiello bay had finished second in the four- and five-year-old lightweight mares’ class to the Nicola Perrin-ridden Ballarin For Joy who disappointingly missed the championship having been cast overnight.

Little doubt

Under William McMahon, Gleann Rua Da Vinci had impressed in his gallop in the large rings at the Flavours of Fingal Show and in the Red Mills final and the bay reproduced this each time he was asked in the Main Arena.

There was little doubt ringside that he would be champion and this was confirmed when commentator Paul Nolan called out the result with Aubrey Chapman finishing reserve on his father George’s four-year-old class winner, the Ulysses M2S gelding Caseys Expresso.

Eight horses appeared in the Main Arena for the lightweight championship and sadly for some their time in there was short as, after the go-around, half were asked to leave. To much cheering from her rider’s supporters, Lady Bell, was again called forward as champion with Gwen Scott standing reserve on Bannside Dancer who owner Jamie Smyth had ridden to victory in the four-year-old geldings class.

Bred by Smyth’s late father Samuel, the Legaland Darco II bay was reserve champion four-year-old to Derry Rothwell’s winner of the four-year-old heavyweight class, the Irish Draught gelding Greenhall Robin Hood (by Dunsandle Dancer) who was first ridden by Aubrey Chapman and then by Brian Murphy.

Back to the lightweight championship where Smyth partnered the geldings’ class winner, Karen King’s home-bred Diamond Yeats, but unfortunately, he had to leave the arena with the grey son of Yeats having slipped up on the flat. While this was a disappointing end to the championship for Smyth, he claimed the title as leading rider in the showing section, King’s home-bred My Diamond Solitaire (by Balief Guy) being one of his winners.

Here, I have to declare an interest in Lady Bell as her rider, equine dentist Niamh Martin, grew up in the town in which I live – Rush, Co Dublin.

She gave the eight-year-old by The Swarty Hero mare a superb ride (smiling as she did so) and one could see the bay’s experience on the hunting field and in eventing (Niamh partnered her to three EI90 (Amateur) wins in 2019) stand her to good stead in the gallop where she kept as straight as a die. The dual champion was bred in Co Tipperary by Martin Egan out of the First of Many mare Leaf Lass.

While at least one of the conformation judges supported Martin’s mare as supreme champion, the result was more or less as expected in the stands with William McMahon and Gleann Rua Da Vinci taking the title and Jane Bradbury standing reserve with Bloomfield Distinction who will be produced again next year in a bid to go one better.

Over the moon

Grace Maxwell Murphy, who also briefly took part in the middleweight championship on the Irish Draught gelding Gleann Rua Oscar Wilde, was over the moon with the supreme championship success of William and Gleann Rua Da Vinci who she bred out of the French Buffet mare Gleann Rua Times.

“People are saying it’s the first time the Supreme has gone west of the Shannon,” she commented. “I’m not sure but it looks like it is and that’s pretty exciting. We’ve Da Vinci’s Colin Diamond half-brother to come out next year and three more half-brothers after that are by Moylough Legacy (two) and Ard VDL Douglas.”

While well-pleased with their champion, the judges I spoke to were disappointed with the number of traditionally bred horses in the show hunter section, criticising some of those they saw for a lack of depth and quality.