Good day for local riders as O'Neill and Slevin among Fairwood winners
The first local meeting in the new point-to-point season was staged by Shillelagh and District Foxhounds on the Fairwood track at Tinahely on Sunday, and it was a good day for the Wexford connections with wins for riders Barry O'Neill and J.J. Slevin, and for trainers Colin Bowe, John Paul Brennan and John Berry.
It was an exciting day's racing in almost perfect conditions, and the turn-out was good considering the multiple sporting counter-attractions posed at home and abroad by rugby, soccer and Gaelic games.
Barry O'Neill continued his strong start to the season with two wins and five seconds over the weekend.
From 23 rides at five meetings he has ridden six winners and eleven seconds, and is joint leading rider alongside regular champion, Derek O'Connor.
O'Neill got his day off to a winning start at Fairwood when Ballycrystal (Oscar- Musical Madam) quickened well in the four-year-old maiden to score for trainer Colin Bowe and owner Matthew Flynn, Bowe's third winner of the season. Second here was Rob James on John Paul and Marie Brennan's Playingwithnumbers.
J.J. Slevin from Kiltrea, Enniscorthy, got off the mark for the season in the five-year-old geldings' maiden when the very game Our Brian (Brian Boru-Zuleika) battled to victory for the Camolin yard of John Paul Brennan, owned by Tom Power and Annette Lawlor.
He won by one and a half lengths from Minella Style, ridden by O'Neill for Colin Bowe, with The Mighty Ash third for the south Wicklow combination of rider Richie Deegan and trainer Aidan Fitzgerald.
O'Neill was second again in race three, the mares' winner of one; he was on Falling Leaf for former champion rider, Adrian Maguire, but had to give best to Miss Coley, trained by Ciarán M. Murphy, winning for the second week in a row.
And the Ballindaggin rider was nabbed on the line in the open four-year-old plus event when the fancied Brennan-trained Need to Know was caught by the 14-years-old veteran, Optimus Prime, for the O'Donovan family.
The final two races produced the first-ever Tinahely winners for multiple champion rider, Derek O'Connor, making the long trip over from Limerick well worthwhile. He held on by a neck on Lottolove, trained by Claire O'Connell, in the five-year-old plus mares' maiden.
In the concluding six-year-old plus maiden he provided the first winner of the season for Wexford owner and trainer, and former champion rider, John Berry; the gelding Catch My Drift (Subtle Power-Deliga Lady) battled on well to hold on by a length from another Wexford horse, Riasc, for the Slevin family from Kiltrea, rider J.J., owner Elizabeth, and trainer Seán.
In an all-Wexford finish, third place was filled by the seven-year-old Elusive Classic, ridden by Pat Kelly from Adamstown, for the O'Gormans, owned by Donal and trained by Susan.
On Saturday the Mid-Antrim Harriers meeting was held at Toomebridge, and Barry O'Neill had a winner and two seconds. The winner was the hot favourite in the four-year-old plus race, You Must Know Me, his third this season for Co. Fermanagh handler, David Christie.
His seconds came for trainer Seán Doyle and the Monbeg Syndicate on Minimal Present in the opening four-year-old maiden, and for Christie on Yew Tree Girl in the four-year-old plus event.
This race provided a win for joint champion trainer Colin Bowe, with Rob James guiding home Last But Not Least (Flemensfirth-Lakil Princess) for owner Brendan Walsh by an impressive eight lengths.
Young John Doyle from Ballindaggin had his second career win in the closing six-year-old plus geldings' maiden on Clondaw Frisby, trained by J.G. Cosgrave in Banbridge, Co. Down.
There is just one meeting next weekend, with the Galway Blazers hosting at Loughrea on Sunday.