SOPHIE Marks repeated her Horse Sport Ireland breed working hunter championship success of 2023 at last weekend’s Association of Irish Riding Clubs’ Festival at Mullingar Equestrian, but this time she and her home-bred Irish Draught mare Lilys Lucky Penny represented Lakelands.

“I was a member of Drynam since I first joined a riding club, but that was when I lived in Swords,” said Marks, who is skilled at turn-out. “At the beginning of the year, I moved to Belturbet and put Penny on livery with Lisa Kane at her Riversdale J Stables. I soon found out that Lakelands had a lesson there every Wednesday evening, so it made sense to switch clubs.”

Lilys Lucky Penny, who is a five-year-old chesnut by Scrapman, is the first horse Marks bred.

“I still have her dam, Barbervilla Lily (by Gortfree Hero), but sold the mare’s other two foals, who were both fillies, a now three-year-old by Dunsandle Diamond and a yearling by Scrapboy. The plan always was to hold on to Penny, who I showed in hand as a foal, yearling, two-year-old and three-year-old.

“I broke her myself at three and had her riding away at the start of 2023. I didn’t do a whole lot with her at four, but was absolutely thrilled when she won here last year. Last month, I rode her in the younger Irish Draught performance class at Balmoral, where she had a pole down, but am not going to try to qualify for the Draught performance at Dublin, as she hasn’t really done enough.


“I’m bringing her to the Irish Draught Horse Breeders’ Association Dublin Branch show at Abbottstown on Sunday (tomorrow) and, after that, I’m going to do a bit of registered jumping with her at Cavan. She is very scopey.”

At the weekend, Marks had plenty of help on hand from groom Elizabeth McKeever, which is just as well as her parents, Alan and Josephine, who missed last year’s Festival as they had just come back from holiday, failed to attend this year’s renewal as well. “They went up to Tullylish, where my sister Chloe was competing in one of the flat Connemara classes with Killegar Mist. Unfortunately, they didn’t qualify, so will be heading to another soon.”

To claim the breed working hunter title, judged by Victoria Teuton and Zorha Smyth, Marks and Lilys Lucky Penny first had to win their Irish Draught class, which they did ahead of Kilronan’s Louise Somers and her 15-year-old Cappa Cochise gelding Indian Mist, who finished reserve in the championship.

The other winners through to the championship on a very wet Sunday were Calliaghstown’s Samantha Fitzsimons with Niamh Grimes’s 11-year-old Cruising For Chics gelding DS The Chic Magnet (RC80 open Traditional Irish Horse), Headfort’s Mary Govern on her nine-year-old Road To Happiness gelding Roebuck Rascal (RC90 open TIH), Foxborough’s Anna Duane with her 11-year-old Callowfeenish John gelding Don’t Tell Mum (Connemara) and Killcarrick’s Anna Kerins with her 11-year-old Court Cave gelding The Same Again (thoroughbred).


In the performance hunter section, judged by Toni Donnelly Mullen and Denise Norton on a much more pleasant Saturday, Marks and Lilys Lucky Penny won their RC90 open class, where their old clubmates, Caroline Farrelly and the 17-year-old piebald gelding Mineview Major Tom topped the scores in the RC70 for Drynam.

The lightweight cob Woodland Badger continues to defy his age, as the 24-year-old chesnut proved unbeatable in the RC70 open under Castle Hill’s Sarah Cassidy. Gillian Hennessy, secretary of the Thomastown and District Club, claimed the honours in the RC80 open with her traditionally-bred ISH gelding Ridgecross Calm Breeze, an 11-year-old son of Sir Stormy Breeze, and Mo Chara’s Kitty Shanahan won the RC100 open with Rebound, her six-year-old ISH gelding by Loughehoe Guy.