Millstreet ready to fly international flags again

Millstreet Horse Show returns to the international stage next week after a 12-year hiatus, with its popularity as strong as ever.

Boasting a prizefund upwards of €200,000, nine international classes, three Rolex ranking contests and competitions in every grade imaginable, unmatched facilities, not to mention the famed Green Glens atmosphere, it is no surprise to hear that families are travelling from the four provinces, complemented by competitors from seven nations.

“We have 1,200 stables booked out and we are still short. It is close to uncontrollable,” said Noel C Duggan yesterday.

“We have riders from seven nations, if not eight, for example Britain, France, Italy, Canada and Denmark. This is the only three-star international show in Ireland and there will be more entries at this show than in any four-star show in Europe.”

Investment in recent years has produced a world-class venue and improvements continue to be made.

“There are even sand arenas, seven all-weather sand warm-up arenas and two grass arenas. There are several new specially-designed trophy fences celebrating Irish history and culture, such as the Titanic and Lady Lavery. Many of the old stables have been demolished and replaced by over 500 new stables and all are international-sized. We have also put 10,000 beech hedge plants around the arenas, while there are new judges’ boxes in every arena,” said Mr Duggan.

“We will also have a bigger marquee, providing refreshments throughout the day. We have done our best to cater for all needs.

“There will be no charge at the gate, no charge for parking, no rip-off for entry fees or stabling or food or drink,” declared the Millstreet man.

The feature class of the show — which begins in earnest next Wednesday — will be the €50,000 Millstreet International Grand Prix, part of the final stage of the inaugural Great Britain & Ireland (GBI) Show Jumping Tour, which included competitions at Mullingar, the Royal Highland Show in Scotland and the British Masters at Southview, England. The Boomerang, National Discovery, Young Irelander and Millstreet Ruby are destined as usual to capture the attention of breeders and producers, along with Wednesday’s National Eventing Discovery, which takes place over a specially-designed track, and has attracted 150 horses, according to Mr Duggan. In addition, the fixture will host Ireland’s richest pony grand prix, with a prizefund of €4,500.

Shane Breen said Millstreet has always been special.

“I have good memories of Millstreet and it has been a lucky hunting ground for me. I won the grand prix with World Cruise and I won the Boomerang when I was 17.

“You’d have to rate Millstreet, considering it has classes of a high standard for everyone. There is always a good atmosphere and it is great to see it back as an international show,” said the Hicksted-based Tipperary man.

Breen will be bringing over his top horses for the show, including Balloon, Ominerale Courcelle and Cos I Can.

Meanwhile, a new bursary for a training stint with Olympic show jumper Billy Twomey is on offer for young riders at Millstreet.

The winner will travel to Twomey’s yard in Britain with their horse and receive three days training with the Olympian.

The Hitchmough Bursary has been launched in memory of Iris and Avril Hitchmough; the founders of Hitchmough’s Riding School in Monkstown, Co Cork, and among the most influential personalities in Irish show jumping.

* Britain’s Polly Stockton, Ruth Edge and Julie Tew, as well as Irish Olympians Michael Ryan and Joseph Murphy are among the stars lining out at Camphire Horse Trials in Waterford.

Over 200 entries alone have been taken for the international classes at the event which begins today and will unveil a new three-star cross-country track, designed by Mike Etherington-Smith, whose CV features the Sydney and Beijing Olympics and the now defunct Blarney Horse Trials.

Among the young horse classes is the €1,000 Masterclass for four-year-olds, aimed at identifying horses of potential. The Bucas-sponsored class for five-and-six-year-olds is also well supported, including garnering some international entries for the first time.

Dressage takes place today, with cross-country action tomorrow and Sunday.

Event director Paul Brady said “the track, considering Mike’s experience, asks all the appropriate questions, but has designed to be as spectator-friendly as possible”.

“The Leader programme has been instrumental in helping us to develop this event. This is the third year we have international status and we are lucky too to have the support of landowners the Wilks and the Browne families.”

Brady said a lot of effort had been made to ensure it is also a family-friendly event, with food stalls and entertainment set to the backdrop of the River Blackwater, promising to make for another wonderful weekend.

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