It is a delight to learn that a majority of the horses chosen to represent Ireland in show jumping, dressage and eventing at the Tokyo Olympics have been bred on Irish farms.
Of the nine mounts to be flown from Liege in Belgium early this month six were bred in Ireland – two of the show jumpers; three of the four eventers and one in dressage.
Leading the show jumpers is Cian O’Connor, who is bidding for another Olympic medal (after claiming bronze at London 2012) on a lovely Irish grey gelding called Kilkenny. He is by Cardento out of a Guidam dam and was bred by the Brennan family of Gowran who also produced Ireland’s sole Olympic show jumping challenger at Rio 2016 – MHS Going Global.
I remember Tommy Brennan riding a horse also called Kilkenny in the 1960s to win a World Eventing Championship team gold. Tommy sold that Kilkenny to the US and he went on to win Olympic and Pan American medals for American Jimmy Wofford. Perhaps carrying that name is a good omen!
Joining Cian on an Irish-bred will be Bertram Allen on Pacino Amiro by Clem McMahon’s Aga Khan winning ride Pacino out of an NC Amiro dam. This one was bred in Donegal by Simon Scott. Darragh Kenny and Shane Sweetnam complete Michael Blake’s four on continentals VDL Cartello (HOLST) and Karlin Van’t Vennehof (BWP). Galway’s Michael Duffy is reserve on Zilton SL Z (ZANG).
Eventing high performance director Sally Corscadden’s team for eventing includes:
• Cathal Daniels on Rioghan Rua (ISH) by Jack of Diamonds out of a Flagmount King dam who Margaret Kinsella bred in Galway.
• Sarah Ennis with Horseware Woodford Garrison (ISH) by Garrison Floyd (ISH) bred by Patrick Kearns in Laois.
• Sam Watson on Tullabeg Flamenco (ISH) by Tullabeg Fusion (ISH) bred by Nicholas Cousins in Wexford.
The fourth travelling member is Austin O’Connor with the British-bred Colorado Blue by Jaguar Mail. Joseph Murphy is reserve with Cesar V (OLD) by Casiro 3.
Heike Holstein heads to her fourth Olympics with the mare Sambuca that she and her mum Geisla bred in Kildare by Samarant out of the Irish-bred mare Astoria by Limmerick.
Sadly, Heike will not be joined by team mates Kate Dwyer, Anna Merveldt and Judy Reynolds who made history in 2019 when they qualified for the team event.
During the intervening months through horse retirement, pregnancy and an injury, Judy, Kate and Anna were forced to withdraw and dressage high performance manager Johann Hinnemann chose to withdraw the team.
Despite an appeal by two other riders (James O’Connor and Dane Rawlins) that decision still holds. As of now, Heike must carry the dressage flag alone.