IF you wrote a great story about horses, this would be one,” said Kate Jarvey after Colorado Blue finished the Tokyo Olympics as the top Irish team horse (13th) with Austin O’Connor. The perfect postscript happened when the pair won the Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill, to give the eventing world’s newest five-star event its full title.

Three Irish Sport Horses finished in the Maryland top-10 - Cooley Rosalent (third), Greenacres Special Cavalier (sixth) and LCC Barnaby (10th).

Overnight leader Cooley Rosalent’s two show jumping fences foiled top points for the Irish Sport Horse studbook and proved costly for Oliver Townend, who so nearly brought off a back-to-back five-star double having won Burghley with the veteran Ballaghmor Class.

So, of the eventing world’s seven five-star events this year, it was an impressive autumn campaign by two Irish-bred greys: Ballaghmor Class and Colorado Blue, born some 35 kilometres apart in Co Limerick and bred by the late Noel Hickey and Kate Jarvey.

Austin O'Connor and Colorado Blue were the only combination to show jump clear inside the time to take the win at the 2023 Mars Maryland CCI5*-L\ Shannon Brinkman Photography

International wins by Irish riders with the IRL ‘number plate’ are special and Austin O’Connor’s historic win ended a five-star drought since Major Eddie Boylan’s Badminton win with Durlas Eile (Artists Son. Breeder: Fr Sweeney) all of 58 years ago.

‘Salty,’ or Colorado Blue, and Austin finished third in the springtime at Badminton, won by Lordships Graffalo. Kentucky and Luhmühlen too passed by without an Irish-bred winner (not surprisingly, Adelaide, the eventing world’s only southern hemisphere five-star, was won by the Australian warmblood Virgil) until that breakthrough win at Burghley by Ballaghmor Class.

This result sealed the Irish Sport Horse studbook’s win in the World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses (WBFSH) rankings and also boosted the Courage II son to top of the world’s eventing horses on Hippomundo’s 2023 leaderboard.

Like Lordships Graffalo, Colorado Blue is registered with Sport Horse Breeding (GB), the successor to the former Hunter Improvement Society (HIS). As Kate Jarvey has explained, her preferred first choice was the Irish Sport Horse studbook. However, due to the ineligibility of Rock Me Baby, Colorado Blue’s dam, this wasn’t an option.

“They wouldn’t take Rock Me Baby in the Irish [Sport Horse] studbook because her dam’s breeding is not recorded. We tried, we tried so hard, I can’t tell you how many hours I tried on the phone.”

Another common denominator between Lordships Graffalo and Colorado Blue is sharing the same damsire: the three-star eventing stallion Rock King. Amongst his own progeny are five-star eventers: Rock Model (Vittoria Pannizon’s Hong Kong Olympics horse), Kings Gem and Kings Fancy.

The Rock King daughter Rock Me Baby is unique in having bred two offspring that competed at the same Olympic Games, both bred by Kate: Colorado Blue (Jaguar Mail) and his half-brother Balham Mist (Mill Law) with Sweden’s Ludwig Svennerstal.

Caroline Pamukcu and HSH Connor in action at Maryland \ Shannon Brinkman Photography

Three more progeny of this mare, whose maternal grandsire is the Busted son and H.I.S premium sire Shaab, are the cleverly-named Crock A Bye Baby (Alligator Fontaine), Hush A Bye Baby (Indoctro) and her final foal by Newmarket Venture, foaled at Jarvey’s Monymusk Stud near Kanturk after Mellon Stud’s sale in 2013.

While there were no Irish-bred medallists at this year’s WBFSH young event horse championships at Le Lion d’Angers, former silver medallist Cooley Rosalent finished third at Maryland.

Bred in Co Down by Woods Rosbotham, her good result banked some early points for the ISH studbook in next year’s WBFSH rankings, as well as promoting her to 18th place in the current Hippomundo prizemoney-based equivalent.

By his daughter Lisa’s own stallion Valent (the pair show jumped internationally, including in the Nations Cup at Drammen), Cooley Rosalent’s turn of foot across the Ian Stark-designed cross-country course is inherited from her Roselier dam, Bellaney Jewel.

Yet another racecourse winner by Roselier (sire of dual Irish Gold Cup winner Carvill’s Hill), Bellaney Jewel won seven races cross-channel including at Aintree.

Cavalier Royale’s influence is seen again at five-star level through sixth-placed Greenacres Special Cavalier, always highly-rated by her Kiwi rider Caroline Powell and 10th-placed LCC Barnaby, by the Irish Sport Horse stallion Guy Cavalier. Both horses were bred in Co Meath by Michael Callery and Martin Collins respectively.

US future stars

The on-fire Caroline Pamakcu (nee Martin) produced two of the top-three prize winners in the four-year-old young event horse championships, hosted at Maryland. And both were Irish-breds.

Her winner was the Peter Leonard-bred HSH Afterglow, yet another bred in Co Limerick and one of nine recorded offspring produced in 2019 by the Tangelo van de Zuuthoeve x Voltaire stallion Hype out of Ringwood Venus (Osilvis).

In third was After Hours, bred in Co Tyrone by Raymond Kelly and by Tolan R. The late Namelus R stallion is in the headlines after his HSH Blake won individual gold and team silver for Martin at the Pan Am Games last weekend. Another - HSH Tolan King, also piloted by Pamakcu - placed sixth in the Maryland CCI3*-L.

After Hours is owned in partnership by Pamakcu’s mother Sherrie Martin and Wendy Furlong, whose husband Brendan has just imported the Dublin dual champion Bloomfield Watergate.

“Wendy bought After Hours, aka ‘Molly’, off a video from MBF Sport Horses in Ireland being impressed with her cross-country schooling with long lines. She sent her to Caroline to train and we have high hopes for Molly,’ he said.

Separating the Pamakcu pair in the four-year-old championship was Jennie Brannigan on the Holsteiner gelding Blacklist.

Piggy March's ride Coolparks Sarco was the best of the Irish-breds in fourth place at Pau \ Equus Pix

Pau to Pan-Ams

The Dutch-bred Izilot DHI, by the Casall ASK son Zavall VDL, topped the Pau leaderboard last weekend, when it was level pegging between the KWPN and the Irish Sport Horse studbook with three horses apiece in the top-10.

Best of the Irish-breds in fourth place was Coolparks Sarco, by Shannondale Sarco, out of the Coolcorran Cool Diamond - Delamain mare Coolpark Lady Diamond. Ridden by Piggy March and bred by Michael Burke, Coolparks Sarco was one of two Galway-breds in the top-10, with the other being MBF Connection, bred by Ann Healy Baynes.

This 10-year-old is by the Dutch-bred Luidam out of a thoroughbred dam Traditionally Aloof, by the Mr Prospector son Traditionally.

Separating the Galway pair was SRS Kan Do. This VDL Arkansas gelding, bred in Athlone by Michael Dooner, added another top-10 finish at five-star level to his CV, having finished sixth at Luhmühlen in 2022.

Also taking place last weekend was the Pan-American Games, held in Santiago, Chile where more Irish-breds earned medals and FEI points for WBFSH rankings. Gold medal winner HSH Blake (Tolan R x Kannan) was the sixth highest-ranked Irish Sport Horse in the WBFSH rankings this year for breeder Justin Burke (who is on a winning roll, having also bred Pamakcu’s Maryland CCI3*-L winner HSH Connor).

The individual silver medal went to a second Irish-bred in Castle Howard Casanova, bred in the Garden County by Susan Fitzpatrick. Another KWPN sire, this time Kylemore Stud’s Womanizer, Castle Howard Casanova is out of a Cavalier Royale dam.

His rider Marcio Carvalho Jorge’s Brazilian teammate Ruy Fonseca is the second rider on their Pan-Am bronze medal team with an Irish-bred: Ballypatrick SRS (Pacino - Ballypatrick Romance, by Clover Hill), bred by Austin Broderick.

One step further up the podium was the US silver medal team, headed by their Irish Sport Horse star HSH Blake, while the Canadian gold medal team also featured one Irish-bred. This was the 10-year-old mare Hot Bobo, another by VDL Arkansas and out of the thoroughbred mare Taney’s Leader (Supreme Leader).

Winner of the CSI4*-S at Lexington last April with Karl Slezak, she was bred by Emma Phelan.

Is a Paris Olympics call-up on the cards for any of these autumn five-star campaigners and Pan-Am medallists? We’ll know next summer.

A long wait

If breeding a five-star event horse is a long road, standing an eventing stallion is an even longer journey.

Tolan R certainly made his mark at Maryland International and the Pan-Am Games, a posthumous achievement after his loss in 2018.

Bred in Holland by Stal Roelofs, the Namelus R x Aramis black stallion was brought to Ireland in partnership with his breeders, Alan Robertson and Justin Burke and was approved at the Horse Sport Ireland inspections in 2013.

Alan and Justin also imported Mermus R, sire of the Gary Higgins-bred Mermus R Diamonds, placed in the Pau 5* top-10 in 2020 and the damsire of HSH Connor, the Maryland three-star winner, bred by Justin.

“Justin was very good at promoting the stallions and Mermus R stood at his Galway Bay Stud,” said Alan.

Tolan R initially stood at Ballinteggart Stud and then at Drumhowan Stud. “I was never going to stand the stallions myself and having them based around the country opened up opportunities for them.

“The horse business can sometimes be challenging but I never regret having the stallions, I met loads of people along the road and stayed friendly with all as best I can.”

Running the family bakery business became a priority for Alan in recent years, particularly after his father Herbie, a great supporter of his son’s interest in horses, became ill. Sadly, Herbie passed away in the autumn of 2022, which gave Alan a new perspective.

“Really, at the end of the day, so many people have things going on behind the curtains and that brings changes. I took a step back [from the horses] after Dad’s death, breathed and at the moment, I’m concentrating on enjoying the horses again and doing meaningful things.

“I’ve some new mares, along with Alba and Jessica, a few nice young horses and so it’s another throw of the dice, another chapter,” added Alan.

Just like Austin O’Connor’s well-deserved win and Kate Jarvey’s event horse breeding era, there’s a certain poetic justice in Tolan R’s emergence as an eventing sire. Good things come to those that wait.

By the numbers

  • €94,553 won by Colorado Blue at Maryland International.
  • €50,000 Pau pay cheque for Izilot DHI.
  • Three - thoroughbreds in the Maryland top-10: Phelps, (the only horse in the field to make the time and with zero jumping penalties on cross-country day), Artist and Buck Davidson’s Sorocaima.
  • Two - Irish-born five-star winning greys bred in Co Limerick: Burghley victor Ballaghmor Class in Brittas and Maryland International winner Colorado Blue at Mellon Stud, near Kildimo.
  • One five-star win in 2023 by an Irish Sport Horse: Ballaghmor Class.
  • Did you know

  • Cooley Rosalent won a silver medal at the WBFSH young event horse championships in 2020. Her full-brother Jewelent was on the Irish team at the 2021 European eventing championships at Avenches with Clare Abbott, where they finished 14th individually.
  • Roselier, Cooley Rosalent’s damsire, holds the unique distinction of producing the winners of all four Grand Nationals: Carvill’s Hill (Welsh), Ebony Jane (Irish), Baronet and Moorcroft Boy (Scottish) and Royal Athlete (Aintree). Previous residents at Roselier’s Knockhouse Stud base included the famous Irish Draught stallion Ben Purple and the thoroughbred Hildenley, sire of David Broome’s Last Resort.
  • Michael Callery’s first broodmare was the thoroughbred Rock House Girl (Paddys Stream) sourced from the Hickey family at Garryrichard Stud. She’s the grand-dam of Greenacres Special Cavalier.
  • Royal Concorde (Concorde - Trump Carder, by King of Diamonds), the Irish Sport Horse sire of Oliver Townend’s Pau runner-up Tregilder, was bred in Co Waterford by Carmel Ryan.
  • Cornish Queen, another Rock King broodmare daughter, is the dam of the five-star pair of Lordships Graffalo and Pencos Crown Jewel (Jumbo).
  • Maryland International Top-10

    First - Colorado Blue (SHB(GB). Jaguar Mail (SF) - Rock Me Baby (AES), by Rock King (AES). Breeder: Kate Jarvey. Rider: Austin O’Connor (IRL).

    Second - Grafennacht (OLD). Grafenstolz (TRAK) - Nachtigall, by Narew (TB). Breeder: Hans-Jürgen Bobsien. Rider: William Fox-Pitt (GB).

    Third - Cooley Rosalent (ISH). Valent (KWPN) - Bellaney Jewel (TB), by Roselier. Breeder: JW Rosbotham. Rider: Oliver Townend (GB).

    Sixth - Greenacres Special Cavalier (ISH). Cavalier Royale (HOLST) - Greenacres Touch (ISH), by Touchdown (ISH). Breeder: Michael Callery. Rider: Caroline Powell (NZ).

    10th - LCC Barnaby (ISH). Guy Cavalier (ISH) - Lady Tanjour (ISH), by Rafael (KWPN). Breeder: Martin T. Collins. Rider: Lillian Heard (USA).

    Pau Top-10

    First - Izilot DHI (KWPN). Zavall VDL (KWPN) - Zilottie W (KWPN), by Marlon. Breeder: B.S Wichers. Rider: Ros Canter (GB).

    Second - Tregilder (SHB(GB). Royal Concorde (ISH) - Trewins (SHB(GB), by Hand In Glove (TB). Breeder: Preci Spark Ltd. Rider: Oliver Townend (GB).

    Third - JL Dublin (HOLST). Diarado (HOLST) x Canto. Rider: Tom McEwen (GB).

    Fourth - Coolparks Sarco (ISH). Shannondale Sarco ?t. Ghyvan - Coolpark Lady Diamond, by Coolcorran Cool Diamond (ISH). Breeder: Michael Burke. Rider: Piggy March (GB).

    Fifth - SRS Kan Do (ISH). VDL Arkansas (KWPN) - La Vie En Rose, by Touchdown (ISH). Breeder: Michael Dooner. Rider: Kylie Roddy (GB).

    10th - MBH Connection (ISH). Luidam (KWPN) - Traditionally Aloof (TB), by Traditionally. Breeder: Ann Baynes Healy. Rider: James Avery (NZ).

    Pan-Am Games

    Gold - HSH Blake (ISH). Tolan R (KWPN) - Doughiska Lass, by Kannan (KWPN). Breeder: Justin Burke. Rider: Caroline Pamakcu (USA).

    Silver - Castle Howard Casanova (ISH). Womanizer (KWPN) - K Cavalier Belle, by Cavalier Royale (HOLST). Breeder: Susan Fitzpatrick. Rider: Marcio Carvalho Jorge (BRA).

    Bronze - Bacyrouge (SF). Mylord Carthago (SF) - Lelia, by Clyde de la Combe. (SF). Breeder: Ghislaine Pitard. Rider: Lindsay Traisnel (CAN).