CONNEMARA PONY SHOW, CLIFDEN 2017 REPORT

Wednesday 16th AUGUST, 2017

Clifden may have woken up to a wet start for the 94th Annual Connemara Pony Show on Wednesday 16th August but the three day show started virtually on time at the immaculately presented Showgrounds prepared under the direction of Show Chairman Eric Walsh and long standing loyal show supporter and former Council Member Mairtin Nee with their hard working team.

Judge for the day Harold McGahern’s first task was adjudicating the International Performance Hunter Team Class where course designer Charles Hanley took the English and Irish teams, both fresh from the RDS, over every inch of  Ring 1 complete with sturdy new fillers. Sponsored by Cashelbay Bay Stud and Sweeney Oil, the English triumphed, turning the tables on the Irish team of Finn Curran (Charlie of Blackhill), Edwina O’Connor (Aghranny Ministrel – winner of the RDS 8 to 15 HP), Pataire Crawford (Gurteen King) and Gillian Bond (Shanbo Hazel’s Boy).

The Irish Connemara Green Hunter Class was next into the ring. This class, for ten qualified four-year-olds from five venues over an 80 cm course, is always interesting as it encourages up-and-coming Connemaras onto the circuit. Harold McGahern, now competently assisted by ride judge Antonia de Burgh, placed Rathbawn qualified  Ballynagilly Fergie ably ridden by Justine O’Hara first, she herself no stranger to Clifden  having won the Show Puissance a couple of years ago. Second place went to another talented rider, Alicia Devlin-Byrne, on City View Blue Boy qualified at Ballinalee, Zohra Smyth and Victoria qualifying at the NE Connemara Breeders’ Show was third, and fourth Rushaun Gwennic (last year’s winner of the loose jumping class) with Katie O’Dea qualified at Moycullen. Hopefully a sponsor can be found for next year as it is a deserving class popularly competed for at the qualifiers.

Weather conditions lifted for the afternoon but left a damp sand arena for the Three-Year-Old Loose Jumping Final. Here, Harold continued judging and Patrick Hester, having flown in specially from Norway, and the arena party ran an excellently organised class sponsored by Horse Sport Ireland. Confined to registered Connemaras, fifteen ponies competed for a prize fund of 1,200 euros, having qualified at either Creagh Equestrian Centre or the Midlands Show. Ribbons were divided roughly evenly between the two centres, the winner being owner and breeder George Walker’s bay  Connemara  Rooska Benny (s. Killaloe Fear Donn, d. Windy City), second was Deirdre Keegan’s 3DR Gabha Oir (s. Funambule 11, d. Cailin Sionna), and Keith Murray’s Whitethorn Honey’s Rock (s. Blackwoodland Rock d. Kilcoltrim Honey) third; fourth place went to Macdara Mac Lochlainn’s Ashbrook Spirit; highest placed mare Kelly’s Dream owned by Keelan Murray was in eleventh place.

Also sponsored by HSI with a prize fund of 3,000 euros the Four-Year-Old Performance Mare Championship followed. Qualified ponies, five each from Creagh and the Midlands, had to show they were familiar with both horsebox and farrier as well as perform over the loose jumping course. The ribbons went to tenth place, Dorothy Philbin’s Beechmount Heather (s. Dooneen Supermatch, d.  An Cailin Deas) taking first; second Geoffrey Heanue’s Shanvoher Hermina (s. Bunowen Bobby, d. Ashbrook Heron); third D. Flynn and C. Lacey’s Hazel Rock Solas (s. Lucky Rebel, d. Hazelrock Carla); fourth Joe McCann’s Camellia Dawn (s. Dunloughan Troy, d. Celtic Moy Streams).

Final class of the day was the Family Green Hunter, which by popular demand was moved from its previous out of main show slot to the performance day of the show; however despite this there were only a poor six entries of which four competed. Antonia de Burgh assisted by Serena Cookson took over the judge’s hat and Ciara Heanue on Crossowen Joy collected the red rosette; ribbons and prizes were awarded to all four riders.

Thursday 17th August, 2017

A slightly better morning than Wednesday greeted the contestants for the second day of the Annual Clifden Show and the sun came out for Ring One judges, Cathy Snow Coyne and Gabriel Murphy as they quickly got to work on the Yearling Colt class. Their winner was Sean Sweeney’s true to type Clochanard Silver Cassius by Dunloughan Troy  (winner in the 2015 Progeny class) and dam Silver Lady 2nd. Second in line was Ballafada Bay (s. Lightening Star, d. Cashelbay Heather) owned by Danny Flynn and Claire Lacey from Offaly. Moving on to the Yearling Filly class Ballyconneely Rose (s. Ballafada Tyson, d. Bunowen Lady) owned and bred by Malachy Sweeney was placed first and Cloonboney Summer (s.Lightening Star, d. Monaghanstown Maeve) owned and bred by Dermot Shanley second, above Glencarrig Sea Breeze, a very pretty filly that has to date been having great success throughout the country.

The winner of the Two Year Old Colt class was also the ringside’s popular choice of Michael Harty’s bay Seabreeze Mirah (s. Westside Mirah, d. Cashelbay Courtney) beating into second place Lisnard Sparky (s. Murvey Hector, d. Kylemore Hill), the Youngstock Champion in Cork. Fourteen ponies hotly contested the Two Year Old Registered Mare class where Glencarrig Princess Katie (s. Glencarrig Knight, d. Glencarrig Princess), an active mover, owned by Katie Curran and bred by Gearoid, was allowed to continue her season’s winning streak. Second place went to Damien Gorham’s Doonhill Dawn Eclipse (s. Currachmore Cashel, d. April Dawn Lady) beating Drumree Pickle Parade, a bay true to type and with a good walk which was brought up from fifth in line to third place.

Moving onto the Three Year Old Mare class Moyabbey Twilight (s. Glencarrig Patrick, d. Sylverann) owned by Tony Walsh took the red rosette and later the Junior Championship; Gurteen Jennifer (s. Glencarrig Knight, d. Gurteen Eimer)  took blue, whilst Peter O’Toole’s Castle Pippa, a pony with a lovely step and the progeny of two former supreme Clifden champions – Glencarrig Knight and Village Linnet, placed forth. The sun was blazing as the Three Year Old Stallion class drew to a close, the honours being awarded to Henrietta Knight’s Caherross Duke (s. Glencarrig Knight, d. Moorland Snow Queen) in first place and later Reserve Junior Champion. Padraic and Nicola Heanue’s Canal King (s. Innellan Condor, d. Castle Countess) was second.

At lunchtime an immaculately turned out Cul Ban Mistress and Kate Derwin, European Team Gold and Individual Silver winners in 2017 being amongst their many achievements on the jumping circuit, paraded in Ring One to much applause. Described by the commentator as an ‘epicentre of excellence’ they looked every bit the part as they showed their paces around the ring. Bought in 2008 we were assured that no offer would make Cul Ban Mistress’s owner, Clive Swindell, ever part with her. A special presentation was made to breeder Barry Connaire. Everybody wishes them continued success in their future career.

Martin Coyne and Ernie Somerville replaced the morning judges and their opening task was the Four to Six Year Old Stallions where they pulled in Noel Noonan’s beautifully produced, by Joe Burke, Manor Duke (s. Currachmore Cashel, d. Banks Vanilla) first in line keeping his place to win the class and the Bobbie and Bridie Bolger Memorial Cup. They were no strangers to this position having won the class in 2016. Murvey Rocco (s. Glencarrig Knight, d. Murvey Rita) owned by Martin Keaney also kept his initial line placing, maintaining second.

The judges took much time  deliberating in the Stallion Aged Seven and Older Class in which seventeen ponies were entered. The top four ponies in line retained their initial placings with Cashel Bay Prince (s. I Love You Melody, d. Coosheen Pheasant) belonging to Cashelbay Conemara Pony Stud (alias Barbara and Robert Fallon) first, second Philip MacMahon’s Currachmore Lad (s. Currachmore Cashel, d. Ballygarris Dawn), followed by Slackport Prince in third and Dunloughan Troy fourth.

Out of twenty-three entries in the Four and Five Year Old Mare class eighteen came into the ring. After preliminary judging ten were allowed remain. First place went to Aisling Sweeney’s Silverhill Lass (s. Dunloughan Troy, d. Heather Star) and second to Glencarrig Countess, yet another placed pony by Glencarrig Knight and full sister to the winner of the Two Year Old Mare class, Glencarrig Princess Katie. Moving on, the Eight and Nine Year Old Mare class was won by Seamus Keady’s Shanna Rose by Janus, and in the Ten to Fifteen Year Old class Noel Sweeney’s Poesie Melody, a winner agreed with by the now very wet spectators as the rain had returned. Fionn Lady by Monaghanstown Fionn won the Sixteen Years and Over Mare class. The Show was now running over two hours behind schedule due to the lengthy time the judges took to make their choices. In the Progeny Class Murvey Rita (s. Currachmore Cashel, d. Cashel Cherry), owned by Martin Keaney, was the dam that came to the fore, and for the Best Registered Connemara Pony Bred, Owned and Exhibited by an Owner Outside of Connemara, Fionn Lady, winner of the Sixteen and Over Mare class, took the honours. After a very wet and long afternoon the final accolade of the day’s showing, Best Pony at the Show, popularly called the Supreme, went to French bred mare Poesie Melody (s. Imperator Melody, d. Equinox Melody) owned by Noel Sweeney from Bunowen, the winner from Mare Ten to Fifteen Year Old Class, and Reserve went to Fionn Lady (s. Monaghanstown Fionn, d. Beech Girl), winner of the Sixteen Year Old and Over Mare class, owned by Dermot Dunne, Portarlingtom and bred by Patrick McCormack of Athlone. Final judging in Ring One was completed shortly after eight thirty pm, three hours over schedule.

In Ring Two on the Thursday morning judging was in the hands of Kevin Bolger and John Noel Mullen where they placed the well-made true to type Gurteen Henry (s. Glencarrig Knight, d. Gurteen Kate) at the top of the line in the Colt Foal Class and the fine filly foal Brocklodge Emma (s. Brocklodge Buster, d. Loughmore Suzy) first in her class, later giving her Champion status. For the Young Handlers’ class six turned up in ring and the honours went to Clifden’s Maria Gorham and Kingstown Lass. Best Registered Mare No Greater than 13.2 was awarded to Forest Horizon (s. Fiona’s man, d. Forest Sunlight) with Ballyard Rose second. Gleann Rua Maximillian  (s. Gleann Rua Maxwell, d. Lakeside Misty) was Best Registered Gelding. The Best Pony Handler was awarded to Michael Harty from Oranmore, by judge Roger Joyce

Judges Kieran Guinness and James McWeeney took over in the afternoon for the ridden classes which began in a deluge of rain for the lead reins; Lisheen Star and Blaithnaid Grimes received red and there were prizes for all. The Registered Connemara Ridden Stallion was a very hot class with thirteen entries and by the time they got to ring the ground was very cut up. The judges’ line was rearranged, possibly due to manners. Final winner was Alicia Devlin Byrne on Joan Dolan’s Tim an Ri (s. Glencarrig Lexus, d. Bunowen Castle Queen) and Sandra  Burton on the lovely Banks Timber who has qualified for HOYS second. Champion in the ridden classes went to Afro Jack GI ridden by Grace Murphy with Cashel Bay Kate and Michael Harty in Reserve. Ring two did not stand up to the weather in the way that ring one, having the benefit of recent deep drainage, did. It would be hoped that perhaps funding may become available to do the same work here as the ring was unusable on the Friday.

Friday 18th August, 2017

Friday morning brought yet more rain and the first class of the day for judges George O’Malley and Marion Condren was the Potential Working Hunter. For ponies aged four to six years and with riders of any age, there were 31 entries. However whilst the class attracted some from the Green Hunter class on Wednesday the course in Ring One proved too much for others and overall the jumping was challenging. The second phase judge, George O’Malley, cleverly made use of the exit chute for the trot up as Ring Two was beyond use. Final top placings were left in the hands of proven riders with Jasper Kelly and five year old Knockbridge Just Jimmy first and Antonia de Burgh on Drymills Bel Esprit aged four second.

The Under 16 Working Hunter class produced better jumping despite the worsening weather – it was wet as only Clifden knows how. By now the ground in was swamped in places, but it held well never becoming deep, the CPBS having undertaken extensive drainage work to ring one a few years ago. The working hunter classes awarded the stalwart Blackwood Fernando ridden by Alicia Devlin Byrne Champion and Pataire Crawford with stallion Ardfry Remy Reserve. Huge credit must be given to all the riders in these classes and the difficult conditions highlighted what talented stoic riders they are.

After lunch the weather cleared, miraculously the surface water drained away and with a quick repositioning of the jumps by course builder Charles Hanley the scene was set for the Clifden High Performance Final sponsored by Horse Sport Ireland. With a challenging course incorporating the banks and with a final skinny double as joker fence at full 110cm height the spectators were given a fine display of riding. Working Hunter Champion Blackwood Fernando and Alicia Devlin Byrne were placed first, Hannah Gordon riding Sive Ryan’s , Tagunnan Sparrow placed second while Dublin winners,Edwina O’Connor on Agharanny Minstrel, were third, and Sea Storm (Talitha Diamond) fourth.

The Puissance competition commenced directly after the final of the High Performance with ten entries going into the first round, where the wall stood at 1 metre 22.  Kindly sponsored by Enda Morley from Clifden , we finished with 4 joint winners all clearing the wall at 1.32.  Our joint winners included Talitha Diamond (Sea Storm), Justine O’Hara (Lettermuckoo Lad), Padraig Geoghegan (Glencarrig Joey), Alicia Devlin Byrne (Blackwood Fernando)

No show such as this could happen without all our very generous sponsors, local and nationwide, including Horse Sport Ireland, Sweeney Oil and Galway Crystal and the enthusiasm and dedication of our stewards and helpers. Thank you.

Phyllis Jones, PRO (CPBS)