It’s in the Blood: Kentucky Magic

With everything happening last week I kind of ran out of time to finish my “In the Blood” post before Kentucky, so I decided to turn it into a post-show version instead. Plus, like, if y’all thought you were gonna escape me gushing about Presto’s “brother from another mother” Mama’s Magic Way (Mason) and his spectacular performance in his first 5*, you were sorely mistaken. I’ve been a Mason stan for a while now and this weekend just put it on like level 10.

14th place overall, 7th place US horse, and highest placed youngest horse (he’s only 10) – not bad for a first 5*!

With his LRK3DE completion Mason also becomes his sire Mighty Magic’s first 5* offspring, and I highly doubt it will be his last. MM’s oldest crop was born in 2007, and for the first few years of his stud career he was bred to quite heavy/cold mares in the thought that, since he was 88% TB and very typey, he would really refine them and blood them up. Once those initial offspring started to mature a bit it was clear that MM actually does best with a mare that has some blood herself and isn’t too heavy, so breeders switched tactics on the type of mares they bred him to. Those offspring are just starting to “come of age” and there are quite a few currently ticking up the levels, so I’m excited to see what happens over the next few years! Mason himself is out of a mare by Star Regent xx out of a Hano mare (making him 80% blood) so he’s a good example of using MM on a mare who has some blood herself. I was cheering like crazy for him and he made easy work of a tough Kentucky, still looking full of run when he crossed the finish on Saturday and bright and fresh on Sunday. Really really exciting horse for the future, and no of course I’m not biased at all.

Yes you’re right, they should hire me to his PR team. ANYWAY, on to the rest of the field I suppose.

Diachello, by Diarado

Two stallions had two offspring each in the field – eventing stallion Windfall and showjumping stallion Diarado. The Diarado’s won that particular head to head battle in the final placings, with Diachello finishing 11th and QC Diamantaire finishing 19th. Showjumper Stakkato was the sire’s sire of two horses, Superstition and FE Stormtrooper. Other stallions did show up multiple times across the pedigrees of different horses, names you should probably be familiar with by now if you’ve read any of these posts before – Cavalier Royale, Clover Hill (ISH), Contender, Heraldik xx, Indoctro, Landadel, Capitol, Voltaire, and Master Imp xx. Basically TB and showjumping lines with a dash of Irish (which is pretty much all you see if you look at any of the Irish Sporthorse pedigrees).

The blood percentages across the field ranged anywhere from 27% (Bolytair B) to 100%. If you discard all the full thoroughbreds and the full Anglo-Arabian, the highest blood percentage was a whopping 99.8% from German-bred Hanoverian (lol) FRH Butt’s Avondale.

The Butt’s breeding program has produced a lot of good eventers, always with very very high blood, and it was fun to see one competing on this side of the pond. Super nice horse and really fun to watch, another good one for the future I think!

If we dig into the pedigrees of the top 10 finishers (as much as we can anyway, Ballaghmor Class is at least 50% but his pedigree has large chunks missing and I don’t like using inaccurate numbers in my stats, thus he’s excluded) the average blood percentage of those horses is 61.25%, a bit higher than average for a 5*. We’re used to seeing more like 53-56% from the European 5*’s.

If we look at the top 10 fastest clear rounds on cross country, the average blood percentage of those horses rises to a whopping 74.5%. Alternatively, if we look at just the horses who turned in clear showjumping rounds, the average blood percentage is 57.3%. Read from that what you will, if anything.

On the American Thoroughbred side of things we again see the lines we’ve gotten accustomed to seeing at these top levels – Danzig xx, AP Indy xx, Deputy Minister xx, Count Ivor xx, and Affirmed xx just to name a few.

Z clocks in at 43% blood

If that’s not enough to convince you of the thoroughbred influence, 16 of the horses who started cross country have at least one full TB parent, and it was just as common to see the TB parent on the bottom of the pedigree (the dam) as it was on the top (the sire). As we’ve seen over and over again by now, the old adage of “blood on top” doesn’t seem to apply to event horses. They just need blood period.

Out of all of the Irish Sporthorse entrants, none of the ones that completed this year were of Traditional Irish breeding – all had some Continental (ie European warmblood) mixed in there as well. It’s proven to be an extremely successful formula for Ireland when it comes to creating modern event horses.

While it’s most common to see sires that were showjumpers (there are very few stallions that compete at the top levels of eventing) five of the entrants were by stallions who competed at upper level eventing themselves – Oratorio by Oslo Biats, FE Lifestyle by Leo von Faelz, Mama’s Magic Way by Mighty Magic, and of course the aforementioned Vandiver and Tsetserleg by Windfall. It used to be thought that you can’t really breed eventers, which is obviously quite false!

It was fun to see QC Diamantaire tackle his first 5* – we first saw this horse in Lara de Liedekerke’s barn in Belgium as a 5yo

On a more personal note, I think my favorite horses of the weekend aside from Mason were FE Lifestyle and Jakobi (by Ustinov, who has sired a lot of good event horses), who both looked extremely genuine and honest on the cross country. My type! Who were your personal favorites of the weekend? Did any stand out to you as ones to watch for the future?

15 thoughts on “It’s in the Blood: Kentucky Magic

  1. I was so happy at one point that the commentators were discussing breeding and blood and actually mentioned what you said about FRH Butt’s Avondale being basically full TB. I was really impressed Mai Baum, Mama’s Magic Way, and Galloway Sunrise. I love a good rags to riches story and was pleasantly surprised to see Fylicia Barr have such a great dressage test on a horse she got off Craigslist.


    1. John Kyle is usually pretty good about mentioning the breeding, at least he has been over the last couple years! He definitely knows more than any American commentator ever does.


      1. John Kyle is my favorite commentator. He has a great sense of humor commentating dressage, I have many years of past “funny things the announcer said” quotes. This year’s highlight for me was when he said, “Syndicates are great, they allow many people to delight in the joy of horse ownership.” Anyone who owns a horse would be quick to tell you it’s not all “joy” and is actually very stressful!


  2. I’m a perpetual fan of Lauren Nicholson and Bug, but I’m also an Arabian rider myself so I’m 100% biased there. However, I love how much of a horsewoman SHE is in always putting the horses first. I’ve seen when XC didn’t go as planned numerous times for her in the past, and every single time the first thing she does is praise her horse for a job well tried.

    I loved Harry Meade and Superstition, especially after hearing his story! I can’t imagine coming back from an injury like that and competing 5* just 6 months later.

    Big fan of Meghan O’Donohue and her current OTTB Palm Crescent. It was his first 5* and I think he did quite admirably, hopefully the pair can come back next year and do even better!

    Rookie to watch: Emily Hamel and Corvett! Her horse’s name caught my ear because I have a (sadly unrequited) love of the Corvette car, and then the pair showed up and absolutely CRUSHED it. He’s scopey and jumped clear all weekend, no small feat.

    Also, that 4* was a ton of fun for me to watch too. I was expecting a ho-hum XC day but it was anything but. I really think there’s some good up-and-coming horses in that field too for both the US and Canada.


    1. Corvett was a doll! How honest and genuine is he, in his very first show jumping in one of the biggest & showiest arenas in the world! Several of the seasoned campaigners were much less generous to their BNR’s! 🙂

      I hope we see that pair again at this level. They do look so promising.


  3. Vermiculus is my favorite. I just love seeing an Anglo-Arab out there. People always look at me funny when I tell them mine is an AA…


  4. In the 4* I loved Vermont (Colleen Loach)–he looked super catty and game all the way through XC near the end of a very messy day. In the 5* my sentimental rookie favorite was Corvette (reminding me of an old horse–a bit unconventional, but so happy to be out there). Anything ridden by a Price seems likely to have a good run. It feels like a cop out, but Ballaghmor Class is in a league of his own.


  5. I am head over heels for EnVogue in the 4* for sure, but honestly if I get reincarnated as an upper level horse I want to be any of the Price’s ponies. 5 horses, all completed and three in the top 10. Incredible!


  6. FRH Butt’s Avondale became known as Fresh Butts for me while I watched. My brain just kept trying to take the quick glimpse of the name and turn it into something easier to read/say. 🤷‍♀️😅


    1. Fun fact, the FRH prefix means the horse is part of the Hanoverian Verband’s program to get elite horses matched up with elite riders. The FRH club within the verband buys top young horses, supports them, and pairs them up with the right rider to fulfill their potential. Pretty cool! Verein zur “F”örderung des “R”eitsports auf “h”annoverschen Pferden. There have been a lot of FRH horses before, notably FRH Corrida, fischerChipmunk FRH, etc.


  7. Mason was phenomenal- so excited for you! I tend to take a shine during dressage and then root for them the whole time. I quite liked Bango. He looked like he was having a great time in each phase. In the 4* I was really rooting for Vermont once I saw them go in dressage. Just lovely!


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