EXACTLY 10 years to the week that the great show jumping stallion Pacino died, Clem McMahon has unveiled a clone of the stallion.

Pacino II, who is an exact genetic replica of Pacino, was born away from the spotlight at McMahon’s Hilton View Stud in 2020 and the now three-year-old was revealed to The Irish Field this week. He will be made available for breeding this season from April.

Explaining the long process of cloning the stallion, who sadly died in 2013 at the age of nine due to kidney failure, McMahon said: “We first thought about it when we knew what the inevitable was with Pacino. I didn’t think it was going to be financially possible but we just thought about what we needed to do to maybe give us the option in the future.”

The McMahons had two failed attempts before Pacino was successfully cloned. “We did attempt it in 2015 and 2016 and we were unsuccessful and it went on the backburner then. It was always in the back of the mind because the quality of Pacino to ride; I have ridden some very good horses but it was even more the quality and scope of his offspring convinced us that we had to try the cloning process again.

“So in 2019 we tried it again and we had a foal in 2020. We decided as a family that we would keep it quiet until he was three. Thankfully he has grown into a fabulous big, blood, scopey model that looks like a carbon copy of himself. There are so many small mannerisms that you can see in him that you knew from Pacino, it is uncanny,” McMahon said.

Breeding focus

The technical term for cloning is Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT) and much of the early work is carried out in a laboratory setting. In Pacino’s case, the procedure was done in Argentina and the clone was born at Hilton View Stud in Co Monaghan.

He is broken and riding and feels to have all the natural ability and scope like Pacino, however he will concentrate on breeding for the moment.

“The idea behind this was that it’s for breeding that we wanted to get Pacino back. I want to have Pacino offspring in my yard again, that was really the main goal,” McMahon explained. “With a stallion, first of all, you look at the performance of himself, but ultimately the stallion is judged on his offspring. Pacino’s strike rate, especially for show jumpers, is incredible.

“When breeding with Pacino, he gave you an incredible high percentage of chance of breeding you a show jumper. In his first year’s crop, two went directly to breeding, four jumped 1.60m internationally, one 1.45m internationally and the other 1.30m nationally.

“Over the last four years in particular, especially from some of the biggest breeders in Europe, I have had a lot of enquiries for semen from Pacino, but unfortunately due to circumstance we weren’t able to offer frozen semen, so it’s great to be able to offer it again.

“He is broken and riding; one thing I thought very important, even though he is a clone and was very difficult to get, was that he was treated like any other good horse. He had a very normal horse upbringing, he wasn’t locked away from other horses; my plan then was to break him before he starts his stud duties.”

Clem McMahon's three-year-old Pacino II, a clone of the famous stallion Pacino at Hilton View Stud \ Damien Eagers


McMahon sees the characteristics of Pacino coming out so clearly in his clone. “Pacino was extremely kind, he was a big blood powerful scopey horse, with a wonderful attitude, and hadn’t a bad bone in his body. This guy is the same; he has the same natural balance and self-carriage; he is only three and he canters around as if he was a five-year old.”

Pacino (born Eldiam de Rêve), by Diamant de Semilly, was bred at Haras Des Rêves in Belgium and purchased by Clem and his mother Maureen as a three-year-old. “I had the breeder of Pacino over last week to see the clone. It was really nice, Frans [Van Mert] was very emotional over it, he kept repeating ‘he is the same horse’.”

Pacino’s short career at the top of the sport was cut short but he achieved so much and was so adored by show jumping fans during his career. A winner as a young horse, he was produced to peak at the highest level by Clem, who was the only person to ride him in competition.

As an eight-year-old, Pacino burst on to the international scene and produced clear rounds in the five-star Nations Cups in Rotterdam, Falsterbo and Hickstead before going double clear to help Ireland win the Aga Khan Nations Cup on that memorable day in 2012, which was the last time the public saw him in action.

A quick look at his offspring page on Hippomundo shows a long list of performers from 1.45m to 1.65m level. Among the top of them are Bertram Allen’s Pacino Amiro, a five-star Grand Prix winner who represented Ireland at the Tokyo Olympic Games; the 10-year-old EIC Coley Jump The Q, a five-star Grand Prix winner earlier this year under Max Kühner; 10-year-old HHS Seattle (Matt Garrigan), among others. He has also sired three and four-star eventers, including Susie Berry’s World Championship mount Monbeg By Design.

Since 2012, clones are eligible to compete under FEI rules and they can also be registered with the Irish Sport Horse Studbook.