James Kernan Interview Part 2 – “Part of the deal was that we would get 5,000 pounds extra if he won the gold medal – which he went on to do in Munich in 1972”

  • 26 March 2020, 15:48

In Part 2  of our interview with James Kernan, he talks about the incredible success his family have had at the Olympics, how Touchdown came to be born and turned out to be his best ever horse, and why he thinks Ireland produces so many top riders.

Following his incredible success in the 1970’s when part of the famous Irish team that won the Aga Khan three years in-a-row, James Kernan would have to wait a while for his next top horse a he explains:

“I didn’t have any superstar for a number of years after Condy until we bred Touchdown and we also had another horse called Countryman. He [Countryman] was a very good young horse and I had him as a six and seven-year-old. We sold him to Lord Harris who was David Broome’s sponsor and he went on to finish fourth overall at the Seoul Olympics in 1988, just missing out on a medal.

Countryman wasn’t the only horse that went through Kernan’s hands that went on to Olympic success:

“We sold Ambassador to Graziano Mancinelli and he was aiming him at the Munich Olympics. Ambassador had jumped on an Aga Khan team with Tommy Brennan. I think it would have been about 1970 or 71 and he was sold for around 25,000 pounds which was a lot of money at the time. Part of the deal was that we would get 5,000 pounds extra if he won the gold medal which he went on to do in Munich in 1972.”

James Kernan told us how a decision by his father to start breeding from Europe’s top stallions resulted in the birth of The Irish Sport Horse Touchdown:

“We had a mare who was sold to Italy for an astronomical amount of money, it could have been 35,000 of 40,000 pounds in early 1970’s. We didn’t own her,  Mancinelli bought her. Tom Vance produced her, she was a difficult mare but a lot of quality. About five years later my father bought her back from Italy and I remember jumping her for a season or two. She was difficult and went in a hackamore but I remember jumping her around the Hickstead Derby for 8 faults.

“The main reason for buying her back was to breed from her as she was an unbelievable jumper and my father would have been one of the first people to send a mare to a European stallion. So she was sent out to France and at that time Galoubet was the top sire and that’s how Touchdown was born.

“So we produced him [Touchdown] and brought him up through the ranks and I would have to say that of all the hoses I put my leg across he was the best by some distance. He had scope, he was careful., he was a fighter – he was unbelievable. I got back on the Aga Khan team in 1992 with Touchdown and we won the trophy again that year. The following week we went to the Barcelona Olympics and we turned out to be the best Irish combination at the Games. Unfortunately on the last day there was torrential ran and it was postponed for two or three hours. Due to television broadcasting they couldn’t postpone it any longer and I had to go into the ring. I could hardly see the fences the rain was coming down that hard.”




James Kernan is now heavily involved with Horse Sport Ireland as team manager for the Irish Youth Show Jumping teams, which is something he really enjoys:

“I really love it. Especially the win we had with the Juniors at the European Championships. We hadn’t won it for 43 years it gave me great pleasure to win it not only once but two years in-a-row.


Irish team manager James Kernan (left) and Joanne Hurley from GAIN (far right) pictured with members of the GAIN Irish Show Jumping squad from the 2019 European Youth Championships

“I am so disappointed that out plan have been curtailed due to the current [Coronavirus] situation. We had a few sessions with the Children On Horses and Juniors and I would safely say I could field three teams in the Children On Horses this year we are that strong. Our Juniors are very strong, we would have 8 or 10 in contention for the team and in the Young Riders I have never had such a high a quality of riders.”

When asked what he thinks is the secret behind the incredible pool of talent Ireland continues to produce James said:

“I think coming up through our format, they are out on the hunting field and that teaches them a certain amount and then they are competing on ponies and the pony scene is so strong the riders have to become competitive to win. Some of the better riders then ride different ponies and they learn a lot from riding different ponies and they all want to win and they all know how to ride against the clock and be competitive.”

If you missed Part 1 of our interview with James Kernan you can read it now HERE

  • Tags: