‘He’s in great form, I’m really looking forward to it’ – Murphy has high hopes in Kentucky

  • 27 April 2022, 18:30

The Irish have arrived and are ready for action at the ‘Best Weekend all Year’ – the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event, presented by MARS Equestrian.

One of the seven major eventing competitions on the calendar begins on tomorrow at Kentucky Horse Park with a host of Irish Sport Horses – and Mullingar rider Joseph Murphy – lining up.

The major international event runs through the weekend and kickstarts a busy and important period for the eventing fraternity, with many competing this weekend flying straight out to take part in the Badminton Horse Trials next Wednesday.

Murphy is flying the flag for Irish riders on board Calmaro (DSP) before he meets Cesar V in Badminton on Monday and the Irish Olympian is very excited by the prospect.

“All is great with Calmaro, I had a really good prep with him during the spring,” Murphy said.

“You’re really going on the back of his form from last year – that’s the reason for making this trip. Since he’s arrived and since I’ve arrived here he’s been in great form. It’s a big weekend but he’s more than capable of performing well so it’s very exciting.

“He did Pau five star last year and performed very well but this is another step up again with the travel and the atmosphere and everything that goes with it.

“I feel very lucky that I’ve a couple of horses to come here with and to go to Badminton next week so hopefully we can make the most of it.”

As opposed to Badminton next week, Murphy is the sole Irish rider in Kentucky.

Perhaps there’s an added layer of expectation on Murphy’s shoulders but, as a veteran of World Championships and Olympic Games, he is taking it in his stride.

“I’m aware of it but it’s not something I will let get to me when we get started because you come here and commit to competing independently, so I put all that out of my head and really just focus on the competition and in that respect I’m normally pretty calm,” Murphy added.

“I don’t let it worry me – I try to embrace it.”

Joseph Murphy jumping a fence on beautiful grey horse Calmaro

Joseph Murphy and Calmaro will compete at Kentucky this week. Photo: Louise O’Brien

With such a short space of time between the two major competitions, logistics play a key role – particularly with an edgy horse like Calmaro (DSP). It’s testament to the team Murphy has around him that he can even entertain the thought of competing in both Kentucky and Badminton.

“Calmaro is a very sensitive type, you have to deal with his temperament, so it takes a bit of management. But my groom here Ryan Hopper, who travelled with him and knows him so well, has just done an incredible job and it puts me in the position to compete at this level,” he continued.

“From then on it’s all about managing his temperament because there will be 70,000 people here over the course of the weekend and he won’t have ever seen anything like that before. He’s a high-class athlete so hopefully we know each other well enough to make sure we get started on the right note.

“The work is done with him – the prep is done with him. Now it’s just a case of getting him into the right frame of mind so he can do himself justice and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Bought out of the Cooley Farm as a four-year-old, Dondante (ISH), previously known as Cooley All Air goes into Kentucky under American rider Will Coleman after the pair’s historic recent success in the Advanced class at The Fork last month.

It’s a rarity to complete the course at Raefort, North Carolina within time – not many can boast they have achieved that feat – but the almost-18 hands Dondante (ISH) went an incredible 12 seconds under to round off an impressive victory.

That sets Coleman and the Francis Brennan-bred 12-year-old up perfectly for a tilt at the big one this weekend, where they will be on a bit of a retrieval mission after falling last year during the cross country. After their Raefort performance, however, it would come as no surprise to see the pair finishing in the top 10.

Of a 50-strong entry, the Irish Sport Horse is the most popular breed entered with 11 in the line-up, with plenty of them hopeful of a top 10 finish.

Of the last time out Irish-bred winners in the field, Fernhill Wishes (ISH) won the Advanced/Intermediate at the Ocala International Festival of Eventing earlier this month while Harbour Pilot (ISH) won the Intermediate at Chattahoochee Hills in. Leamore Master Plan (ISH) is another one coming in with winning form after taking the CCI4*-S at Fair Hill in April.

It promises to be a fantastic weekend and can be watched live on the Horse & Country website (subscription needed), while Horse Sport Ireland’s social media channels will keep you updated as the weekend goes on.

Click here to download the full list of Irish-bred entries.

Dondante (ISH) – [was Cooley All Air] – 2010 gelding by Pacino (BWP) out of Muckno Clover [ISH] by Euro Clover [ISH].
Breeder: Francis Brennan (Monsghan). Rider: William Coleman (USA).

Fernhill Wishes (ISH) – 2009 gelding by Chacoa (HOLST) out of KEC Galway Bay [ISH] by Glidawn Diamond (ID).
Breeder: Anna Kennedy (Kerry). Rider: Karl Slezak (CAN).

Harbour Pilot (ISH) – 2003 gelding said to be by Cruising (ISH)[TIH] out of Shannon (TB) by Fijar Tango (TB).
Rider: Hannah Sue Burnett (USA).

Leamore Master Plan (ISH) [was Sambuco] – 2009 gelding by Master Imp (TB) out of Ardragh Bash (ISH) by Cavalier Royale (HOLST).
Breeder: Michael Byrne (Wicklow). Rider: Ariel Grald (USA).