THE performances of the Brandenburg gelding Calmaro during 2021 not only saw the grey crowned Eventing Ireland’s leading horse of the season with 186 points but his partner, Joseph Murphy, took the leading rider title, his breeder, Hartmut Shack, topped his dedicated division while Elster W headed the Top 10 list of dams.

“Last August, 2020 that is, Laura Collett advertised the horse for sale on behalf of his then owners, Karen Bartlett and Maggie Gibbs and, as he was just the type I was looking for to upgrade my string, I decided to go over and try him out,” said Murphy. “We bought him and I have to say, Laura has been very supportive since then as have Karen and Maggie.”

Calmaro is a 2011 gelding by the show jumping stallion Carpalano whose international career started in early 2014 at Lanaken where Germany’s Gerd Sosath was in the saddle. He then represented Lithuania, Russia and Lithuania again before finishing off his competitive career in October 2016 under Finland’s Laura Aromaa.

Registered as a German Sport Horse, Carpalano, who was also bred by Shack, never competed at a level higher than two-star but, being out of the Pep mare Romance, he is a half-brother to the Catalani gelding Campino II (CSIO5*).

Calmaro’s dam, Elster W, is by the German thoroughbred Elsurimo (a son of Surumu), winner of the Group 2 Deutsches St Leger in 1990 and the Group 3 Oleander Rennen the following year. Elster’s own dam, Epona, was by Eklatant.

Imported into England as a four-year-old, Calmaro commenced his eventing career at BE100 level in early 2016. When leaving Collett’s yard four years later, he had competed in many of the top international young horse classes including at Tattersalls where he won the CCIYH1* as a seven-year-old. In 2019, he was placed twice at Open Intermediate level from just four starts.

Murphy didn’t do a whole lot when he got the horse last year, only running him four times, but he won two EI115 (Opens), was fourth in another and, with a fence down show jumping, finished 14th of 26 in the CCI3*-L at Ballindenisk in September.

This year, after some good placings to start off the season, which, combined, gave him 25 points, Calmaro recorded a hat trick of victories in the EI120 at Ballindenisk (2) (24 points), the CCI4*-S at Kilguilkey House (2) (32 points) and the EI115 (Open) at Tattersalls (10 points). He was then fourth in the CCI4*-L at Millstreet in late August (25 points) while his 17th place finish in the CCIO4*-S at Aachen garnered him five points.

The combination rounded off their season in the CCI5*-L at Pau where they picked up 65 points when finishing 14th. “He’s a quality horse who rides with a lot of blood,” said Murphy of Calmaro. “He needed to go to a five-star this year and now we can plan his campaign for next season when he and Cesar should be on the short list for the world championships at Pratoni (in September).”

Leading mare title

The Murphy-ridden Gorsehill Pearl, who also competed at Pau, was once again the leading mare on this table of Top 10 horses, finishing third with 143 points.

Now 16 years of age, the daughter of Hermes de Reve, who was bred in Co Wicklow by Ann Bannon (third on the Top 10 list of breeders) out of Holly Clover (by Minstrel Bouncer), picked up all but five of her points by finishing second in the EI120 at Ballindenisk (1), when fifth in the CCI4*-S at Millstreet (1), by winning the EI115 (Open) at Punchestown (2), placing second in the EI120 at Kilguilkey (3) and when finishing 12th in the inaugural CCI5*-L at Bicton (which earned her 65 points).

“Pearl is owned by Owen and Alice Brennan of Devenish Nutrition Ltd (sixth on the Top 10 list of owners) and although they were unable to travel to Bicton, they were thrilled with her performance there. I had hoped that we would build on that at Pau but things just went against us.

“We were last to start, late in the evening, and then Izzy Taylor got a bad fall and we were held early on the track. I got off as the delay went on such a long time and, I admit it, I lost focus and so did she. When she ran out at the side of the fifth fence, I decided to call it a day as it was totally out of character for her. We’ll sit down soon and discuss where we will go with her next year.”

Murphy would appear to have a strong team of horses to compete but he’s not prepared to rest on his laurels. “We’re working hard to get one or two more five-star horses for the new Olympic cycle while, having formed a partnership with Richard and Tanya Ames, we should have plenty of young horses coming through as they have a good production line at Belline.”

Other horses on the Top 10 list who are not mentioned elsewhere in these pages are the Padraig McCarthy-ridden HHS Noble Call (142 points), the Steven Smith-partnered Galwaybay Echo (130), Susie Berry’s partner John The Bull (113), Fred Scala’s mount Everon Vivendi/Corriebeg Vivendi (113), the Cathal Daniels-ridden LEB Lias Jewel (113) and the Clare Abbott-partnered Jewelent (109). The last two combinations represented Ireland at the European championships at Avenches, Switzerland in September.