County cleans up on remarkable winning weekend
It was a remarkable weekend that clearly illustrated the strength in depth of the Wexford point-to-point scene, with nine trainers from the county producing 13 winners and seven riders netting 15 wins between them, all from four meetings in Laois, Limerick and Wicklow.
The riding star was Barry O'Neill who followed up a double in Durrow on Saturday with a wonderful four-timer at the Bray Hunt fixture in Tinahely on Sunday; Jamie Codd had three winners and Harley Dunne made the long journey to Limerick pay off with a double.
With multiple champion, Derek O'Connor, having just one winner over the two days, the Wexford duo are closing the gap in the title race; O'Connor still leads on 28 winners, but O'Neill is now just four behind and Codd is third on 23.
Joint champion trainer, Colin Bowe, has left a quiet spell behind and his four winners spread over three counties have put him in a clear lead on 13 winners, three ahead of David Christie (Fermanagh), with John Paul Brennan from Camolin joint third on eight winners.
It was a red letter weekend for trainer Shirley Berry from Tomhaggard who sent out her first-ever winner, and for Noel Dooly from Courtnacuddy and Ivan Walker from Bunclody who were scoring their second career wins.
There were Wexford connections to all six winners on the first day of the Brosna Foxhounds meeting at Durrow, Co. Laois, on Saturday.
There were doubles for riders Jamie Codd and Barry O'Neill and trainer Colin Bowe, and wins also for rider Rob James and trainers Seán Doyle and Ivan Walker.
The opening four-year-old maiden went to Colin Bowe's Presenting mare, Whatduhavetoget, out of Smooching, owned by the Milestone Racing Partnership and ridden by Barry O'Neill.
They took it up in the home straight but gave the rivals a chance with a mistake at the last, but she got going again to win nicely. She is now bound for the Festival Sale at Cheltenham.
Second a length back was Inch Lala under Harley Dunne for Shane and Aidan Byrne; Richie Deegan was third on Aidan Fitzgerald's Ellen's Way and Jamie Codd was fourth on Denis Murphy's Big Robin.
Jamie Codd won the four-year-old geldings' maiden on Trainwreck for the powerful Gordon Elliott/Gigginstown House combination.
They were headed near the last but got back up by half a length on the run in to pip Orchard Thieves, ridden by Rob James for Donnchadh Doyle and the Monbeg Syndicate.
The second here will certainly be heard of again.
Codd completed a double in the five-year-old geldings' maiden for another of the training big guns when he romped home in a small field on Call the Taxi for Shark Hanlon.
Rob James was on a winner in the six-year-old mares' maiden when making all in the heavy conditions on Graces Island for trainer Seán Doyle (Ballindaggin) and J.J. Kavanagh, coming home six lengths clear of Goodgirl Teresa, ridden by Gary Murphy (Ballycullane) for Denis Moore (Kilmore Quay), with Jimmy O'Rouke third on Dollybird for the Corrigans.
Barry O'Neill and Colin Bowe completed their double in the six-year-old geldings' maiden on Front At The Last (Golan-Kilgefin Tina), bred and owned by John Gibbons.
It was actually in the melting pot at the last until the fancied Ben Arthur crashed out through the wings when alongside the winner.
The day finished on a high note for trainer Ivan Walker from Bunclody whose Three Swallowsnick (Westerner-Sitges), owned by Enniscorthy publican Nick Doyle, was ridden to victory in the Mares' Winner of One by Johnny King from Tipperary.
This was Ivan's second career success as the same team scored with the same horse in December in a four-year-old mares' maiden at the Carlow Farmers' Meeting at Borris.
The action resumed at Durrow on Sunday and there were three more Wexford winners.
It was a day to remember for Shirley Berry from Tomhaggard who sent out her first-ever winner when Wishicould (Asian Heights-Dark Wish) scooted home in the five-year-old mares' maiden under Shane O'Rourke (Foulksmills). Second was Abbey Magic for John A. Berry, ridden by northerner, Steven Clements.
In the Winner of One, Ted's Island (Heron Island-Morgans Lady) had a bloodless victory under Mark Scallan (Cleariestown) for trainer John Martin Walsh (Scar, Duncormick) and owner, John Redmond (Rathangan).
It was also a big day for Noel and Jennifer Dooly (Courtnacuddy) with Mrs. Jay Dee (Heron Island-Dear as Gold) comfortably winning the seven-year-old plus mares' maiden under Kildare rider Robert Brennan, building on a promising debut second at Ballinaboola.
This was trainer Noel's first win of the season and his second-ever success, and Mrs Jay Dee looks a great prospect.
The Co. Limerick Foxhounds raced at Cragmore on Sunday and Colin Bowe and Harley Dunne (The Ballagh) made the long trip worthwhile when Onthepulse (Oscar-Angio Blast) won a match under a great ride by Dunne, edging out the hot favourite, Arvico Bleu, ridden by Derek O'Connor, by half a length in the four-year-old geldings' maiden.
Dunne completed an impressively quick double in the second, the five-year-old plus mares' maiden, on Molly the Dolly for trainer James Doyle by a more comfortable six lengths, with O'Connor again filling second.
There was little or no Wexford interest in the Dunhallow Foxhounds meeting at Kildorrery in Cork.