• 11 May 2014, 16:55

AFTER one of the most dramatic competitions in its 65-year history, an Irish Sport Horse won the Badminton four-star Horse Trials in England today (Sunday), with three other Irish-bred horses finishing in the top ten.

Bred in Newtownmountkennedy, Co. Wicklow by Paula Cullen – mother of Irish rugby star Leo Cullen – the bay mare Paulank Brockagh moved from 25th place after the dressage phase up to fifth after cross-country, to outright victory after the show jumping phase this afternoon.

Ridden by Australia’s Sam Griffiths, the 11 year-old daughter of Touchdown had just one fence down in the show jumping arena at the Duke of Beaufort’s estate, and came home 2.8 penalty points ahead of British runner-up Oliver Townend and Armada, while Britain’s Harry Meade rode the Irish-bred Wild Lone into third place.

Australia’s Paul Tapner, the overnight leader after cross country, claimed fourth place on the Irish Sport Horse Kilronan, while New Zealand’s Tim price placed yet another Irish Sport Horse, Ringwood Sky Boy, in ninth.

Austin O’Connor was best of the Irish riders at Badminton, finishing in 15th place on Ringwood Mississippi (ISH) after lowering just one pole during show jumping.

This year’s Badminton saw 25 eliminations and 18 riders opting to retire on the tough new-look cross country course, while in show jumping no rider managed to finish on a fault-free score.

The success of Irish-bred horses at Badminton’s four-star event followed close on the heels of victory in the USA’s four-star competition two weeks ago, when another Irish Sport Horse, Bay My Hero – bred by Bryan Maguire in Wexford – took first place in the famous Rolex Kentucky event, ridden by Britain’s William Fox-Pitt.

Breeders of Paulank Brockagh, Frank and Paula Cullen said today in a statement: “We are absolutely thrilled. It was an epic three-day event filled with drama and top class international riders. For Brockagh and Sam Griffiths to come out on top is a dream come true. Paulank Brockagh is an amazing mare, so clever and brave and such a consistent performer – since her first intro as a four year old, she has had a clean record cross-country: quite an achievement over eight seasons.

“Her success at Badminton could not have happened without the professional help of a few people whom we would like to thank.

“Firstly, Brendan Doyle from Enniscorthy who broke her; Susan McDonald who introduced her to hounds; Joseph Murphy who won the FEHL 4 year old HSI trophy for the highest placed mare. Darryl Walker who showjumped her off-season under the guidance of Fiona Carew, competed in the 5 year old FEHL where she was again the highest placed mare. Her 6 year old season was spent with Heidi Hamilton who competed her at one star. Again she was the top mare that year.

“Thanks to the financial help of my husband Frank and sponsorship from Cullen Communications Ltd, Brockagh was able to go to Sam Griffiths in Dorset. Sam’s parents in Melbourne are very good friends of my lifelong friend Sue Tufnell who recommended Sam to me.”

“Calendar Girl has been a consistent breeder with her oldest progeny now 20 years old. Paulank Kimble by Cruising was her first foal and she was exported to Italy in foal to Zero Watt as a 3 year old. She jumped to international level before retiring. We had the opportunity to buy her back and she now has two foals by the recently deceased Clover Brigade. Her foal by Zero Watt was placed 3rd in the Italian National show jumping championships as a 4 year old.”

Paulank Brockagh (ISH) – 2003 bay mare by Touchdown (ISH) out of Calendar Girl (ISH), by Triggerero (TB). Owner: Frank & Paula Cullen. Bred by Paula Cullen, The Bearna Gate, Callowhill, Newtownmountkennedy, Co. Wicklow.

Australia's Sam Griffiths and Paulank Brockagh (ISH)

Australia’s Sam Griffiths and Paulank Brockagh (ISH)