(l-r) Susan Lanigan O Keefe and Marily Power being awarded for their outstanding contribution to sport horse breeding in 2015 by Irish Horse Board chairman Jim Beecher

By Susan Finnerty
Photography: FEI and Sportsfile for Horse Sport Ireland

Some 40 years in the making – that’s how you could describe the background story of Suma’s Zorro (Ard VDL Douglas - Vixen’s Frolic x Horos – bred by Susie Lanigan-O’Keeffe). The 14-year-old mare is on the crest of a wave with a recent string of wins with her Egyptian part-owner, Sameh El Dahan.
Suma Stud is synonymous with its founders Susie Lanigan-O’Keeffe and Marily Power, (the stud’s distinctive prefix is an amalgamation of their first names) who founded their stud back in 1978. Based in Co Meath for many years, Co Kilkenny in south-east Ireland is now the couple’s home, and although they have semi-retired from the horse breeding business, they have left an indelible mark on the Irish sport horse world.

So much so that they were presented with the Outstanding Contribution to Sport Horse Breeding award at the Horse Sport Ireland breeders awards in 2015. And now the Global Champions Tour success of Suma’s Zorro this summer, with a win in Cannes, followed up by another Grand Prix win in the Paris leg of the series, plus placings at Chantilly and Valkenswaard, has catapulted her breeders back into the spotlight.

Being an Irish story, there is of course a degree of what Marily describes as “A combination of planning and pure fairytale” in Zorro’s back story, as it traces back to their foundation mare, Royal Penny.

She was an orphan foal, spotted beside her dead dam by some racegoers returning from the Curragh Races. Susie’s uncle, George Malcomson had just lost a Thoroughbred foal that morning, so they brought the orphan filly home. She was said to be the result of an illicit liaison between a yearling colt, the property of the renowned Thoroughbred breeding operation Baroda Stud, and a Connemara mare!..

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