SIX YEARS on from Queen Elizabeth II’s historic visit to the Irish National Stud, her daughter-in-law Camilla, duchess of Cornwall, visited the jewel in the crown of the Irish thoroughbred industry last Thursday.
The duchess arrived by motorcade from the Curragh on Thursday evening at around 4.45pm having earlier flown, with her husband Prince Charles, by helicopter from Kilkenny where they had spent the earlier part of Thursday. The duchess had been scheduled to arrive at the Irish National Stud at 2.50pm but, having had a busy morning in Kilkenny, the touring party were behind schedule and she arrived at approximately 4.45pm for the 45-minute visit.
On her arrival at the Irish National Stud, the duchess was met by the chairman of the Irish National Stud Matt Dempsey, Irish National Stud CEO John Osborne and well-known trainer and Irish National Stud board member Jessica Harrington. The duchess was then escorted into the Sun Chariot Yard, where she was shown the Irish National Stud’s flagship stallion, Invincible Spirit.
Earlier this year, a broodmare owned by the duchess produced a foal by Cable Bay, who is a son of Invincible Spirit. Cable Bay was also bred by the Irish National Stud.
In the Sun Chariot Yard, the duchess of Cornwall also met retired racing legends Hurricane Fly, Kicking King, Beef or Salmon and Hardy Eustace. While there, she handled the horses and fed Hurricane Fly some carrots while chatting to the staff members. However, it was Invincible Spirit who was the main man on the day, posing for pictures with the Duchess.
The royal visitor was then introduced to some of the international students who are currently in training at the Irish National Stud.
The Irish National Stud has 25 students from nine different countries on its stud management programme. The duchess met Cameron Ring from New Zealand, Damien Fitton from Australia, Michael Balaz from Canada, Anya Shroff from India, Thomas Wainwright and William McNeile from the UK.
The invited guests at the event included local TDs Fiona O’Loughlin, Martin Heydon and James Lawless along with Kildare-Newbridge Municipal District mayor Mark Stafford.
The duchess was then shown the centrepiece of guided tours around the Irish National Stud and Gardens, a sculpture commemorating the founder of the Irish National Stud, Colonel William Hall Walker. The life-size bronze of the visionary was commissioned by the Irish National Stud to mark its centenary in 2015.
Entrusted to Dublin-based expressionist Bob Quinn, whose work is celebrated throughout Ireland, the sculpture evokes the character of the man with a hint of humour. Bob was on hand to meet the duchess and explain how it came to be.
Anthony Scott, who commissioned the sculpture which was unveiled by Queen Elizabeth in 2011, was also present to meet the duchess and sculptor Simon Carman was present to explain to the duchess how he hopes to create an image of champion sire Invincible Spirit in limestone, which has never been tried before!
The royal visit coincided with a forum on the subject of thoroughbred welfare at the Irish National Stud and many of the visitors who were on site last Thursday evening were those active in the field of welfare, charity and care of animals, veterinary surgeons and owners and trainers.
The speakers at the seminar were introduced to the duchess and included veterinary surgeon Michael Sheahan from the Department of Agriculture, Peter Webbon, Sharon Newsome from the Irish Horse Welfare Trust and Diana Cooper who is the project leader of IFAR (The International Forum for the Aftercare of Racehorses), representing Sheikh Mohammed’s Falcon and Associates.
As the visit was concluding, Irish National Stud chairman Matt Dempsey and outgoing CEO John Osborne presented Camilla with an Irish birch tree. Before she left, the duchess told John Osborne that she would be back to the Irish National Stud each year for as long as she is able.