O'Neill scores double at point-to-point meeting
THE point-to-point sector moved back to the south-east of Ireland on Sunday with an October autumn fixture at Tinahely staged by the Shillelagh and District Foxhounds.
With the ground officially described as good to firm, good in places, the six-race card saw the entry of 71 being reduced to 51 at declaration. As always at this Co. Wicklow track, every effort was made to provide safe racing ground with the track having being well watered during the week.
With competition in the racing sector pretty fierce, with two track meetings at The Curragh and Limerick in addition to another point-to-point at Loughrea, the crowd was a little on the light side, but racing was competitive until the end.
Barry O'Neill has really started the season well, scoring a fine double. He opened proceedings in the four-year-old maiden on 'Island Heights'. This son of 'Heron Island' just got the better of a ding-dong battle with Jamie Codd on 'Shanty Town' to win in a photo finish by a head.
O'Neill always had his horse towards the front and, capitalising on a couple of mistakes by 'Shanty Town', won in the colours of the Monbeg Syndicate. Winning trainer Donnchadh Doyle was on hand to state 'he is a nice horse who will go on any ground. We hope to get him into some of the sales venues'.
O'Neill, newly sponsored this season by P2P.ie, came out best in another tight finish in the mares' winner of one on 'Jenny Make A Penny'. This mare, successful the previous weekend at Limavady, showed the benefit of her fitness to hold off 'Pumped Up Kicks' by a neck.
Winning trainer David Christie indicated afterwards that the six-year-old 'Hellissio' mare would revert to the track and added 'she loves this ground and is really best going left-handed. She was meant to be in Britain for a race in Hexham but we couldn't travel so we came here'.
Jamie Codd kept O'Neill in his line of view at this stage of the jockeys' championship with a win with 'On The Grid' in the five-year-old and older mares' maiden. Owned and bred by Harry Curtis, this five-year-old by 'Double Eclipse' tracked O'Neill on 'Maple Mons' and got the better of that battle to open the mare's account. Trained by Sean Doyle, he indicated that this mare will be kept in this sphere before adding 'she is tough, gets three miles well and got a super ride here from Jamie'.
It was a good weekend for Sean and his brother Donnchadh as between the two of them they had four winners, two at Tinahely, one in Loughrea with 'Uppertown Cave' winning under Andrew Latta, and 'Sir Loujay' on the track at Fairyhouse on Sunday.
The open lighweight saw 11 horses face the starter with Jamie Codd and Denis Murphy's 'Commanchewardance' well fancied. An horrendous mistake three fences from the finish really put paid to his chances no matter how hard Codd tried. The winner here, 'Clancy Strand', an eight-year-old son of 'Montjeu', was the surprise victor for Niall Madden's yard, with his winning owner and jockey, Nile O'Rourke, nearly blowing as much at the end of the race as the horse did!
The other two contests saw J.J. King and owner/trainer Co. Meath-based Patrick Downey win the five-year-old geldings' maiden with 'Dream Crusher' following the fall of 'Pure Poteen' two fences out. Co. Waterford-based Vincent Halley enjoyed another win when 'Valentino's Choice' took advantage of the departure of 'Bacher Son' and 'Ballyboker Bridge' at the second-last to win under Paul Power.
'Dream Crusher' will most likely be sold after this effort while Halley indicated that 'we expected to win, we will go for a winners if the ground stays good'.