Looking back at the the overall auction returns from 2023, it is good to report that demand remained high, and in general it was another buoyant year for the sport horse industry. Having stabilised from the post pandemic boom, the figures maintained a steadier rate and were capped by some phenomenal prices at the end of season specialist sales.

Less positively however, these upper returns were levelled by a rather disconcerting slide in the middle market, and the increasing monetary divide. This was most notable in the three-year-old sector which grew more selective as the year progressed.The foal trade meanwhile was dominated by pedigrees, and the stouter the black type, the better the return. The weight of this was illustrated to the maximum when Brian Connolly’s colt sibling to CSF James Kann Cruz realised a massive €38,000 at Cavan.

Monbeg Condor (Lot 22) was purchased for €87,000 by Britain’s Karla Wheatfort \ Bit Media

Monbeg spoils

Two of the year’s major spoils went to Marti Rudd and Tomás Doyle, the husband and wife team behind Monbeg Sport Horses who trade from their home in Ballindaggin, in Co Wexford. Last year the show jumping duo picked up both the three and four-year-old sale honours, so speaking as both breeders and producers the couple give a frank insight to their own breeding criteria, and from a commercial angle, what works best for them.

Having competed at the world young horse championships at Lanaken twice in recent years, and as regulars on the show jumping circuit, it is interesting to learn that the couple breed predominately for the eventing market.

As a former international event rider, Marti is well qualified in this field, but what is probably more surprising, and despite topping the Go For Gold four-year-old figures at a whopping €87,000 in November, the duo prefer to sell their youngsters as three-year-olds. Explaining the reasoning behind this decision, Marti reveals why she is very cautious about taking too many down the ridden horse route. “We think it’s sad, but it’s a fact that more often or not, you will get well paid for a really fancy three-year-old, whereas the four-year-olds take and need time and in this regard it makes little sense to put the extra year in.”

The couple’s current broodmare herd numbers are around 10, all of which have either performed themselves to a good level or are closely related to those who have. Among them are the traditionally-bred Ballycapple Mist, a mare by Boherdeal Clover out of Ballycapple Cruise by Cruising. Bred by Henry Fleming, and a very good mare in her own right, Ballycapple Cruise jumped to 1.45m under Tomás, and has already bred the Lanaken representative Monbeg Ruby (by Diamant de Semilly).

Ruby is also the current HSI stud book champion seven-year-old, while another of her offspring is the exciting Monbeg Equity, ridden by British Olympian eventing gold medallist Tom McEwen. There is also the prolific broodmare Nancy Broone, who has bred no less than seven international event horses and show jumpers, among which is the smart CCI4*-L event horse OBOS Take One. Other members of the broodmare herd include a recipient mare in foal to Marti’s Lanaken mare Monbeg Sapphire (1.40m), as well as a thoroughbred mare and a very stoutly bred jumping mare by Chacco Blue. “We never breed from mares we don’t like and all are athletic and correct in conformation,” says Marti.

Sire choice

When it comes to selecting covering sires, the couple are refreshingly open minded, and their decisions are rarely fashion-driven.

“Our stallion choices are largely type-based, and are chosen to suit a particular mare,” adds Marti. “We prefer a lighter type of stallion - ones that are neither too big or too strong. If they are jumping sires, we watch the videos and study the techniques – again matching up their good and weaker points with those of our mares. In Ireland we try to see the stallions in the flesh, but the same criteria always applies. The important thing for us is that the stallion musn’t lack quality, as we have learned over time that most Irish mares are better suited to a lighter-framed sire and one that is light off the floor. There are possibly too many stronger types around, which, as the sport progresses and evolves may not be so suitable in 10 to 15 years’ time.”

Temperament is always an important factor, and while the couple will not breed from an obviously difficult mare, they are aiming to breed for the top end of sport and, as a result, can be forgiving in that area and put greater emphasis on talent.

Looking at the wide range of expensive jumping sires on offer, Marti commented: “Insemination fees are hefty, so I feel that that route should probably be reserved for those who have a very fancy mare, and who aim to sell as foals or even embryos.”

Interestingly, this observation was confirmed by the increasingly divided returns between the select foal sales and the general auctions across the country. Looking at the results, there was probably not a lot of change in the bottom ranks, but certainly the mid-range foals found it hard to maintain a consistency, as did those by expensive sires but with weaker maternal pedigrees.

For those aiming for the top end of the foal market, recent comments made by Rathmore Stud’s bloodstock supremo Peter Molony have become equally relevant in the sport horse sector.

“You need to look at your mare,” he said. “If she is not good enough to be commercial – and unless you are doing it for a hobby – you shouldn’t be breeding from her.”


The couple are equally candid when it comes to breeding from a mare who, for whatever reason, hasn’t given the expected return.

“In that case we would definitely look at covering her with a more commercial type of stallion, which would cost less,” says Marti. “It has to be about the type and the individual, and if a mare’s pedigree is not stout enough, we will look at the many home-based sires on offer and always with the event market in mind.”

As regards training, the couple are acknowlegeded for their quiet approach, and slick production. This never follows any hard and fast routine, and is very time dependent. “This year, we haven’t touched any of our three-year-olds yet,” explains Marti, “Whereas some years we might give them a little jump at two. Again, some are x-rayed at two and three, but there is no hard rule, and we like to give time.”

In recent years, the couple have become increasingly focused on the end of season specialist sales at Goresbridge Go For Gold and Monart and have been well rewarded for their strategy.

Of course not all the three-year-olds heading for these sales are homebred – and likely candidates are bought in at any age from foals upwards. All will be quietly broken before the sales, while final piece of the jigsaw is marketing. This is centred through both the social media and the auction platforms, as each individual can be seen both ridden and loose schooled prior to sale.

Marti and Tomás have enjoyed phenomenal success in this sphere, and are already looking forward to the class of 2024.

July 2023 Goresbridge Sale - Higgins Sport Horses' Oliver Twist, Lot 267, fetched €33,000 from America's Rich Fellers to top the sales at Goresbridge this week \ Sally Parkyn


In terms of privately run online auctions, the scene-stealer of 2023 was certainly BP Arctic Blue who was sold at the Ballypatrick Auction at the end of December for €1.9m. The seven-year-old gelding by A Pikachu de Muze (Kannan) out of the Chacco Blue mare Chasandra went to a UK bidder for €1,190,000. This horse was third in the 2023 Irish Breeders’ Classic and has jumped up to 1.40m level.

The next highest-priced lot was Lot 2, the six-year-old gelding BP Meadow H (Grandorado TN x Colino), a very special gelding who is tipped for the top after having an excellent Sunshine Tour with Niamh McEvoy. He was knocked down for €384,000 to a US-based bidder.

The third highest-priced lot was Lot 6, BP Netflix (Zirocco Blue VDL x Indoctro), a 2018 grey gelding who went for €285,000 to an Irish bidder.

The fourth lot to smash the €200,000 threshold was lot 10, BP Vibrant (Vivant x Lux), a 2019 bay gelding who was described as a stand-out all season, qualifying for the Dublin Horse Show at Barnadown and going on to jump clear every day at Dublin, finishing third in the Grand Final under the saddle of Daniel McAlinden. He was sold for €249,000 to a US bidder.

Lot 26, CSF Good Vibes, a colt by Goodluck VDL out of the dam of 1.60m performer James Kann Cruz, topped the Cavan Elite Foal sale when sold for €38,000 to the USA \ Laurence Dunne Jumpinaction.net


Higgins Sport Horses’ Oliver Twist, 4-year-old gelding by Henkie (dam by Idocus), €33,000.


Monbeg Sport Horses’ Monbeg Condor, 4-year-old gelding by Condios (dam by Diamond Valley Gold), €87,000.


Monbeg Sport Horses’ Private Monbeg, 3-year-old gelding by Bamako de Muze (dam by Heartbreaker), €60,000.


Brian Conolly’s CSF Good Vibes, colt foal by Good Luck VDL (dam by Cruising), €38,000.


Allanah Morgan’s Diva vd Bergoeve Z, 3-year-old filly by Dourkhan Hero Z (dam by For Joy Van’t Zorgvliet HDA), €30,000.