GER O’Neill won the Irish Breeders’ Classic five and six-year-old final on Sunday for the third time in the 12-year history of the class and, for good measure, also took fourth place in the €35,000 Horse Sport Ireland-sponsored class.

Thirty of the top youngsters in the country had qualified earlier in the week to battle it out over John Doyle’s 12-fence track. Some 18 went forward to the jump-off where just seven returned a second clear.

O’Neill was fastest of these in 35.62 seconds aboard Martin Egan’s five-year-old gelding Ballyshan B F Super Hero to land the win.

Speaking after the result O’Neill said: “It’s a great day to win the Breeders’ Classic. It’s an aim of ours at the start of the year, to prepare the horses that would be a fit for here. Martin Egan bought this horse as a three-year-old. He previously owned the best horse I had, Castlefield Vegas, a few years ago and it’s been a while since we had a horse as special as this one.

“He (Martin) gets an unbelievable buzz out of the sport and he’s a very hard worker. They are great people to be involved with, the Egans. I’m delighted to win today, it’s as much for him as it is for me.

“He’s by Celtic Hero B Z out of Ballyshan Luximportant (Lux Z) and was bred by Gary Doherty. Lux Z mares have proved to be very good on the dam side. Vegas was out of a Lux Z mare so we always look out for horses out of a Lux Z mares, they are very good to have in the family.”


Speaking about his tactics against the clock, O’Neill added: “For the jump-off from fence one to two, you had to leave out a stride, and then the turn back to the vertical was very tight. Then it was eight very forward strides, or nine, to an oxer, I thought the nine would suit me better, but it did leave the door open for the riders coming after me so there were a few nervous moments outside in the practice arena waiting to see.

“Greg had Niamh (McEvoy) and two more jockeys, Mikey was there and Nicholas had put in a great round. The round I had on my first horse (Ballinaguilkey Special Star) was good; and on another day it may have been enough to win, but Nicholas Connors didn’t leave me too long in the lead. I knew with the next horse I had to tighten the girth and just go for it.

“It worked out for me, I was lucky I had a second horse and that he is naturally fast, so it was my day today. When I jumped into the double I kind of jumped across it on the way out, that was a risky move but it put me on my line for the tricky vertical so that could have been where I made up the fractions of a second that I needed.

“He has an easy way of going and a big stride. He went really well in Dublin, but in the final I left it behind me; I didn’t get the turn I wanted to the second fence, and I went an extra stride to the second last and he had it down, I felt like I did the horse an injustice that day, so it was nice to make up for that today.

“He is selected for Lanaken, he’s naturally a very fast horse so he has a great chance if things go his way. Lanaken will be his last show of the year and then we’ll put him away for next year.

“Lanaken has been a lucky venue for us. We’ve won three gold medals there, sometimes I have to pinch myself when I think about that. He has a chance so we are really looking forward to it.

“Jason Foley has four horses and I have two. It’s great to have Jason back in the yard. When I knew he was coming after me today in the class, I knew I had to put it up to him, because he doesn’t leave it down when he does beat me, which is more often than I beat him!”

Lucky class

“This is my third time to win this class. I won it with the late Eamonn Murphy’s mare Columbcille Gypsy and she went on to win in Lanaken. I was in the line-up with Killossery Kaden, and I won it with Dawsons Gold, so it has been a lucky class for me.

“The team I have behind me is unbelievable. My head groom Zana does a wonderful job. She’s been with me for about 10 years. When I get up everything is done to such a high standard. I don’t have to worry about anything.

“Everyone was here with me today. My Mum and Dad, my daughters, my sister, it’s really nice to have them all here. It’s a special day. The initiative that Ronan (Rothwell) had to set up this class 12 years ago was a wonderful job. To have this sort of prize money for young horses and put them out on a world stage is great.

“Then Maurice (Cousins) is so good, he looks after this grass ring like you wouldn’t believe. It’s incredible how well he keeps it. So much work goes into this show, Sharon (Fitzpatrick) and Liz (Brennan) do an amazing job. It’s always fantastic.”


Mikey Pender finished as runner-up aboard Bravo Hughes HHS Ice Flo (Iceman De Muze x Cyrano 145). Bred by Kevin Meagher, she stopped the clock at 36.24. The Ann Connors-owned and bred Jump The Gun (I’m Special De Muze x Master Imp) finished in third place in 37.62 with Nicholas Connors in the saddle.

O’Neill and his other mount, another five-year-old, KM Sport Horses’ Ballinaguilkey Special Star (Big Star x Ramiro B), bred by John and Barbara Walshe, took fourth place. Aisling Doherty’s Sydney PMD (Quidam Junior x Cumano), bred by Patrick O’Dea and ridden by Olivia Roulston, was fifth.

Robyn Moran rode Fortside Farms’ Fortside Bonnaroo (Aganix Du Seigneur x Lux Z), who was bred by Catherine Thornton, to comple the line-up in sixth.