2011 marks the 143rd anniversary of the Balmoral Show and one look at the standing-room-only trains at the show’s station, and the bumper-to-bumper traffic on the nearby streets and motorways, illustrates just how popular this show still is.
The show, held at the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society’s Showgrounds in Belfast, has hotly contested classes for livestock, ponies and horses (driven and ridden), Pony Club Games, an Inter-hunt Chase, a Riding for the Disabled Challenge, plus national and international (CSI2*) show jumpers.
Competition kicked off in the main arena at 8:30am on May 11 with the “Allbed” Six/Seven Year Old Championships. The top five all finished on double-clears, but it was Lorcan Gallagher riding Lisa Rosbotham’s Newmarket Venture Clover who took the win with a quick jump-off round. Reserve went to Philip Gaw riding Derek Gaw’s Rocky Bond. The “Eventsec Five Year Old Championships” followed, with just two double-clears. Daniel Coyle, riding James Harris’ Cyrano Crush, who put in an unbeatable jump-off round at 44.23. Richard Smith and Enda Craig’s Tirconail River Rose were reserve.
In the 1.30m champions, it was Christian Coyle’s turn (after coming 3rd in the 5-year old championship) to stand at the top of the line with his own Lumpaci. There were double-clears for all riders in the top 4, including Coyle, Aoife Dooley, Kirsty Chambers and James Kernan.
The international classes got started with the P & O Ferries International Two-Phase. Winning the class with a double-clear was Yorkshire rider Paul Barker, riding Lyn Barker’s 10-year old chestnut mare, Amira. Close behind were Gerard Clarke (2nd) and veteran competitor, Francis Connors (3rd). The Connolly’s Red Mills’ International Stakes saw Irish riders taking all three of the top spots, with Cpt. Michael Kelly and the Minister for the Defence’s Lough Foyle leading the victory gallop.
May 12th saw a mixture of weather cross the show grounds, but mostly sunshine and blue skies. It was a perfect day to spend at the fair, enjoying top show jumping and doing a little shopping from over 450 vendors on the grounds. There was also ample variety of homemade and organic treats in the Balmoral Food Village. I can say with confidence I had one of the best hamburgers of my life at this show!
In the Botanica Amateur Championship, Martin Wilson and the 15-year old Database won the prestigious class on a quick double-clear. Reserve went to Frances Mellett and Unknown Territory.
Twenty-six riders came forward from Great Britain and Ireland for the Husqvarna International Top Score. Sixth rider in Trevor Breen, was the first to clock up over 1000 points but only stayed in the lead until Great Britain’s Geoff Billington finished his round immediately following. Paddy O’Donnell and Harristown Princess cut the corners, took on the Joker fence more than once, and finished with 1240 to go into the top spot. Like Breen, O’Donnell’s lead was short-lived when Dermott Lennon and Tolett, an 11-year old mare by Larino, followed his round…and posted 1270 points. This lead held strong until the penultimate rider, Gerard Clarke, entered the arena with Horseware Ardragh Stein. The pair may have been “reserves” in the P & O Ferries International, but they were winners here with 1290 points.
The final international class of the day was the Ryedale Clothing International Spectacular. Twenty-two combinations came forward, with Yorkshire rider, Paul Barker taking his second international win of the show, this time with the Temple Stud’s Temple Ryefield, a 14-year old gelding by Sunnora’s Son.
Friday the 13th (unlucky or lucky, you decide), marked the final day of the Balmoral Horse Show in Belfast, Northern.
Large crowds made their way through the trade fair to watch the hunters, jumpers, ponies, and draft horses compete for championship titles. Just as busy were the cattle and sheep shows, and the special guests including falconry demonstrations and the Gerard Naprous Equestrian Stunt Team.
For fans of show jumping, the final day kicked off with the AON Risk Services (NI) Ltd. International Accumulator. Twenty-five entries took on Kelvin Bywater’s course, where points are accumulated for each fence cleared.
The current Irish National Champion, Eddie Maloney, was a true trailblazer with Macushla R, picking up 65 points at a very competitive time. Great Britain’s Scott Smith and Quintus 66 didn’t fare so well, with a sliding refusal which resulted in a fall. Robert Maguire and Lorcan Gallagher both matched Maloney in accumulated points, but couldn’t catch his time.
Clem McMahon with his new ride, Harry Airde’s Cruising Micky Finn, had a fantastic round but finished just off Maloney’s pace. Veteran Irish rider, Francis Connors, whose list of international accomplishments would need to be an article on their own, put in a typical stylish round with Westwinds Cirracruise but with a time that would only be good enough for 5th.
Great Britain’s Keith Shore, the penultimate entry, with Zegreanne Z, a 12-year old gelding by Zandor Z owned by Sprinis Equestrian, flew around the course. Zegreanne Z didn’t touch a rail and, at 52.24 seconds, pipped Maloney at the post for the win.
At 3:15pm, the feature class for the show, the £ 15,000 Vodafone International Grand Prix, began. The challenging course posted questions throughout, though 9a seemed to puzzle a number of riders throughout the class.
The first clear came early in the competition from Lisa Rosbotham and Keonnan Stables’ Valent, a 9-year old stallion by Hors Le Lol II. The handsome chestnut put in a beautiful trip with Rosbotham. Peter Murphy and Del Fuego, matched Rosbotham’s score as did Waterford’s Paddy O’Donnell and Harristown Princess.
Alexander Butler and Will Wimble, who placed 3rd in the Lummen GP in Belgium in April, jumped their first round in a downpour. However, the focused pair had a terrific round at a good pace, proving they could be a threat in the jump-off. Clem McMahon and Valentino, and Edward Doyle and Samgemjee soon added their names to the every growing list of clears. Paul Barker with Temple Ryefield and Keith Shore, winner of the morning class, with Stranger brought the total for the jump off to eight.
In the jump-off for the Vodafone Grand Prix, Lisa Rosbotham appeared to go for the steady clear with Valent but an unfortunate rail would drop her to a final spot of 7th. Peter Murphy’s round almost matched Rosbotham’s in time, and in penalties.
Paddy O’Donnell, put his foot down with Harristown Princess, winner of the Failte Stakes at the 2010 Dublin International Horse Show, taking 6 seconds off Rosbotham’s time, and moving into the lead. Alexander Butler and Will Wimble galloped strongly around the course, cutting corners and taking chances which paid off. Crossing the timers penalty-free at 46.88 would be unbeatable.
Clem McMahon and Edward Doyle went for the steady clears for 8th and 4th respectively. Paul Barker and Keith Shore, never ones to hang about, chased Butler’s time but couldn’t quite catch the leader, leaving the win to Alexander Butler and the Irish-bred Touchdown gelding, Will Wimble.
For more details on the Balmoral Horse Show, visit http://www.balmoralshow.co.uk/index.html