THIS year’s Young Eventhorse Series commenced on Wednesday at Forth Mountain where much remained the same as in previous seasons apart from the early appearance of the Smith Brothers Eventing team.

The Gilford operation usually waits for the qualifier at Tullylish to try to book a place in the young event horse championships at the Dublin Horse Show but the scaling back of one-day events in the Northern Region of Eventing Ireland has resulted in a change of policy.

“I have three five-year-olds I had hoped to event but, with a lack of opportunity coming up, have decided to go down this route instead with them,” said Steven Smith. “I got two of three qualified today but am annoyed with myself that Terry Johnson’s Strangford, who finished fourth in Section A, missed out on securing his ticket!”

Although none of the O’Shea family was able to attend, there was much excitement among them when they learned that Smith had partnered Gareth’s Tullaher Paudie to victory in Section B of that five-year-old contest. The combination showed consistency across the phases to complete on 317.8, over five points clear of the Nicola Ennis-ridden MBF Silver Bridge (312.6), who too booked a Dublin qualifying spot as did the Louise Bloomer-partnered Shannondale Levi (310.3) in third.

“Gareth bought this fellow from Paul Douglas,” said Smith of the Shannondale Sarco St Ghyvan gelding who was bred in Co Clare by Charles Killeen out of the Lux Z mare Luxpat. “Like the other pair, he is having his first official outing today although they have all done some Go-As-You-Pleases. Gareth is a good supporter of the yard so I was glad to get this win for him and they are all thrilled that they are going to Dublin.”

Steven had to settle for a well-beaten second place finish behind a fellow Northern raider in Section A on Caroline Overend’s CJO Kann Surprise (302.4) but this Kannan gelding will also be on the Smiths’ truck heading to Dublin in August which was the plan when entering the bay for the qualifier.

“This fellow’s breeder, Trevor Overend, sadly died last year and I’m now producing the horse for his wife Caroline and their daughter Carla. He’s also out of a Lux Z mare, CJO Curiosity Lux, who did a bit of jumping.”

Convincing victory

The runaway winner of this division was the 2021 Balmoral working hunter champion Ratheoin Quality Imp (319.1) who is ridden and produced for his Portadown owner, Declan O’Neill, by Gwen Scott.

The combination went straight into the lead following the ridden display phase with Scott keen to acknowledge the great help she has received from dressage coach Penny Sangster. “Penny has brought out a big improvement in both myself and the horse,” said Scott. “I’ll do another YES qualifier with this fellow but as he has been jumping a metre and a metre-ten, I might do the Horse Board classes with him as well.

“Declan has an Irish Draught gelding (Ratheoin Jack In A Box) that he keeps at home himself but I jump at shows. He’s a nice horse but this fellow is a Ferrari and will be for sale at some point.”

There was disappointment here for Nicola Ennis’s sister Niamh Tottenham who, although finishing third on the home-bred Tyson gelding, Slieve Callan Gael (301.5), failed to qualify on this occasion and will have to travel from Co Clare again in the next couple of weeks if she is to book her starting place at Dublin.

The judges for this first YES qualifier were Anne Kirwan, Lynn Cassidy, Janet Kelly, Peter O’Toole and George Chapman. This quintet, and others working/volunteering at Forth Mountain, were no doubt provided with printed start sheets but there were none for others so be warned to print them out at home. In the sun, it’s often not easy to look information up on your phone and harder still to write pertinent, personal comments on the participating horses.