Miriam Lord: Whiff of pampered bluebloods? That’s the horses

Camilla at National Stud declares: ‘I’m coming back here every year until I drop!’

In the brief battle for the attention of five sporting superstars, it came down to a straight fight between the Duchess of Cornwall and a bucket of carrots.

The carrots won hooves down.

Camilla didn’t mind. She was, after all, in the presence of “Living Legends” and absolutely delighted to make their acquaintance.

“And who have we here?” she inquired, gazing up into two big brown eyes.


A grumpy looking gelding ignored the duchess completely and made a determined lunge for the bucket. “Beef or Salmon,” replied stable hand Leona. “Eh, with carrots.”

Whereupon Hurricane Fly let out an unmerciful barrage of snorts.

The royal visitor couldn’t have been happier. There’s proof.

As she was departing, Camilla, with a big smile on her face, turned to John Osborne, the chief executive of the National Stud, and declared: "I'm coming back here every year until I drop!"

Earlier, she left the Prince of Wales to do his thing at the Curragh Army camp and took a trip up the road to the stud for an audience with some of the biggest names in Irish racing history.

Beef or Salmon, Hurricane Fly, Kicking King, Rite of Passage and Hardy Eustace – five retired millionaire gentlemen living out their lives in leisurely luxury following stellar careers at the track.

Big attraction

Even though they don’t race anymore, the horses are a big attraction for visitors to the Kildare venue.

These pampered bluebloods don’t like to be kept waiting by anybody, no matter how high their station in life might be. For their date with the duchess, they were moved into the comfortable boxes normally used by mares about to foal and soothed and mollycoddled until minutes before her arrival. Then, and only then, were they taken out into the big yard with its fountain in the middle, where they formed a thoroughly thoroughbred receiving line.

The smallest horse – Hurricane Fly – was the feistiest while we were warned that the famous Beef or Salmon, while “a character”, is a grumpy old man and can be “a bit nippy”. With any luck, he wouldn’t take one of Camilla’s fingers off.

The duchess strode confidentially into the Sun Chariot yard and went straight for the VIPs. Trainer Jessica Harrington, who recently saddled the winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup and followed up her triumph with the Irish Grand National, accompanied her.

The two women seemed to know each other well, but then, they share a common language. They speak fluent horse.

Osborne and National Stud chairman Matt Dempsey remained close by on nosebag wrangling duties.

“A carrot, perhaps?” asked the urbane Dempsey of his honoured guest, as if proffering a small sherry before dinner.


She took him up on the offer – the chief executive holding the bucket, the chairman passing across the snacks and the horses hoovering them from the duchess’s hand.

Photographs were required for posterity so the five superstars posed for the cameras.

Suddenly there was an outbreak of loud neighing and whinnying.

It didn’t seem to be coming from the horses. Who was it?

It didn't seem to be coming from the royal party, which included the very distinguished looking John Warren, who is the queen's bloodstock adviser.


A member of staff from the National Stud solved the riddle for the non-horsey contingent. She was using an app on her telephone which plays different horse noises. It’s used when you want your expensive piece of bloodstock to prick up its ears and look good in photographs.

“I won’t be eating carrots again soon,” said Camilla.

But there was more to enchant the duchess, who wore a green herringbone Donegal tweed coat she was given as a gift on her last visit to Ireland.

She had yet to meet the biggest star of the show. He was loitering around the corner, past the window displaying Arkle’s skeleton.

Invincible Spirit. A fine looking animal.

"Does he still compete?" wondered The Irish Times.

A staff member nearly choked with the shock.

“Oh God, no!” she shrieked, horrified. “He works three or four times a day at €120,000 a go.”

Clearly, his spirit isn’t the only thing that’s invincible.

Sinead Hyland, marketing executive at the stud, explained. "He's the most significant stallion we have ever stood. Fifteen of his stallions are now at stud around the world and one of them, bred here, is called Cable Boy. The Duchess of Cornwall has a share in him."

Michael D has a horse at the stud too. He owns it on behalf of the people of Ireland.

Aimhirgin Lass has retired from racing and is in foal. And yes, the daddy is Invincible Spirit.

Stable hand Michael “Daffer” Kelly led the prolific stallion across the concourse to meet Camilla.

“Hellaire!” cooed the duchess, who knows a fine bit of horseflesh when she sees it. She posed for a photo with Invincible Spirit but he wouldn’t look at the camera (probably too exhausted and preparing for his next conquest).

She tried to talk him around and wagged her finger at him, but to no avail. Even the app wouldn’t work – he must be well used to a lot of neighing and whinnying in his ears.

Afterwards, Camilla met the local horsey set and local politicians on the lawn. Matt Dempsey gave her a gift of a bonsai native Irish birch.

Charles and Camilla later had a private visit to the nearby Gilltown Stud where they met trainer John Oxx and the great Irish thoroughbred "Sea the Stars".

Miriam Lord

Miriam Lord

Miriam Lord is a colour writer and columnist with The Irish Times. She writes the Dáil Sketch, and her review of political happenings, Miriam Lord’s Week, appears every Saturday