Just 12 British bred horses tackled the cross country at Burghley. For a nation that boasts the best eventing circuit in the world, with two of the most important international events, are we just not breeding the right horses? Are we not breeding them in enough volume, or are we not producing them correctly as young horses?
Of the twelve that did make it, 1 has unrecorded breeding, so his bloodlines clearly cannot be assessed. Of the remainder, can we glean any clues as to what genetics or bloodline combinations really worked to produce genuine 4 star contenders.
The best of the British
The outstanding British bred horse once again was Classic Moet. This lovely Thoroughbred mare was so fast and fluent over one of the toughest of courses, and recorded the fastest time of the day. Her breeder Elaine Hepworth chose traditional British eventing breeding lines. Classic Moet’s sire Classic sired a number of decent eventers and show ring winners (such as RIHS winner High Treason), and although he hailed from the North American sire line of Northern Dancer, he had very interesting French blood on the dam’s sire through Sicambre (who has been seen in eventing pedigrees). Classic is still available through frozen semen.
Classic Moet’s dam was a former advanced eventer herself, by the former HIS sire Bohemond. As well as Classic Moet, she also produced another advanced horse in Classic Piper. Bohemond is also the dam sire of the Olympic eventer Winsome Adante and directly the sire of the regular Belgian team horse Withcote Nellie.
Classic Moet eventually finished 3rd and earned Elaine the highest placed British bred horse award and as the highest placed British bred mare, she also won two embryo transfers donated by Twemlows.
In my analysis of the dressage and show jumping bloodlines of the Olympic horses, it was clear that a stallion that had himself competed internationally seemed more likely to produce an international horse himself. In this instance it is the dam who provides the proven competition record.
Finishing in 12th place was Treason another SHB(GB) registered horse. Bred by Preci Spark Stud (Vin and Elizabeth Jones) he is another star to have at least 1 parent with a serious competition record. His sire Hand in Glove was an international show jumper and his dam Welton Lady actually won the Burghley Young Event Horse Championship in 1996. Welton Lady is a daughter of Welton Crackerjack who was an advanced eventer himself and sire of multiple 4 star winners.
Treason was a promising young horse winning the Young Horse Evaluation Final (a precursor to the current BEF Futurity) and competed at the European Young Horse Championships. He rose successfully through the ranks and was long listed for the 2012 Olympics.
4 British bred horses appear in the top 21 to 30 places. The homebred Mr Potts and Louise Harwood finished 34th. The son of the ISH stallion Old Leighlin was bred by Louise’s mother Jackie Skelton. Mr Potts carries quite a lot of Irish Draught blood through grandsires Laughton’s Flight and Roma Diamond Skip, but it is his Thoroughbred influenced dam line that is most interesting. His grand dam Gerfuffle also produced the full brothers Bit of a Barney and Partly Pickled who completed both Badminton and Burghley. Although he jumped clear around the tough track, you can see a bit of the draught influence in his type and this probably had quite an influence on his 41.6 time penalties.
Just two places below him was Glengarnock. The AES registered gelding was bred by Edith Rutherford and carries a lot of Dutch bloodlines. He jumped bold and straight till the pair made a mistake at the Leaf Pit. He is quite a big horse and started to look a little tired towards the end, and perhaps the lack of close up Thoroughbred blood in his pedigree contributed to this.
Glengarnock’s sire is Ahorn who was an international show jumper and is the sire of such top performers as Ursula (Scott Brash and also British bred). His damsire Bernstein also brings a strong jumping influence to the pedigree as he carries the legendary blood of Ramiro, Alme and Gotthard.
A horse having his first experience of 4 star was Jesmond Justice ridden by Irishman Mark Kyle. Bred by Mr & Mrs Ron Pearson, his dam has unverified breeding but is thought to be Irish and show jumped to Grade B level. Jesmond Justice’s sire Weston Justice is a British bred and based stallion who is really starting to produce eventers in his own mould. Weston Justice evented to advanced level himself and hails from a super dam line of eventing stock. His dam Weston Miskris won an individual silver and team gold medal at the Junior European Championships. Although he is no longer actively standing at stud, there is plenty of frozen semen available which is great news for breeders.
Just 2.5 points behind Jesmond Justice were Harry Dzenis and Xam, a SHB(GB) registered son of the influential Thoroughbred stallion Java Tiger. Xam was bred in Cornwall by Mrs Bolitho out of an unregistered mare. The 15 year old grey gelding was very positive across country but unfortunately incurred 36 penalties in the show jumping phase.
In 44th place was the AES registered Redpath Ransom. This son of John Whitaker’s show jumping stallion Randi is out of a mare by the Thoroughbred stallion Euphemism. Redpath Ransom was clear cross country but again had a few fences down in the show jumping.
Just behind them was the amateur combination of Charlotte Brear and Manor Missile. The SHB(GB) registered son of Honeybrook Siren is believed to be half shire. Charlotte has owned him since he was a foal and the pair have progressed up the grades together. Honeybrook Siren was a son of the top eventing and National Hunt sire Cruise Missile.
The final British bred horse to complete was another amateur pair – Alan Nolan and Bronze Flight. He was bred by Fiona Menzies and is by the AES stallion Dynasty (by Dompfaff) out of a mare by the British-bred stallion Flying Dutchman – a son of Dutch Courage.
Sadly Brendonhill Doublet and Imogen Gloag withdrew before the show jumping. The pair came through pony club ranks together and were selected for the Junior European Championships. Doublet is by Future Role and was bred by Brendon Hill Stud in Somerset, who over the last 50 years have been one of the leading British breeders of event horses.
Hexmaley’s Hayday is listed by the FEI as being British bred but with no registered breeding. He and Emily Lochore were eliminated on the cross country.
Finally another pair that sadly did not complete the cross country was Kirsty Johnston and Opposition Detective. Kirsty’s parents stood the great Trakehner stallion Fleetwater Opposition who among others sired British team stalwart Opposition Buzz and 4 star horse Yarlands Summer Song. Fleetwater Opposition was a medallist at Junior European level and so is another example of the importance of at least one parent showing prowess at the highest level. Kirsty’s father John bred Detective out of Hathor by the National Hunt stallion Ra Nova and the grand dam’s sire was the British based Danish Warmblood Atlantus. Hathor also produced a full sister to Detective who is eventing at CCI** level in France.
No matter which way we examine the bloodlines of the horses that are competing at the top level in sport, a clear trend is the importance of proven performance in the immediate ancestors.