Local riders share in bonanza
Codd's title as Wexford emphatically leads the way
The 2015-2016 point-to-point season just concluded was a remarkable one for Wexford connections and the county has now been firmly established as the most dominant and influential in the game, supplanting the Munster strongholds that had held sway for so long.
Mayglass native Jamie Codd is the leading rider for the second time and Colin Bowe (Kiltealy) is champion trainer for the fourth time, but it is the overall strength in depth that has been really impressive as their main challenges have also come from within Wexford, in the shape of Barry O'Neill and Donnchadh Doyle, Ballindaggin.
Wexford riders filled four of the top ten places and the county produced five of the top ten handlers. And even that does not convey the full extent of this Wexford success story as dozens of other riders and smaller stables have all got in on the act.
In addition, Wexford horses have dominated the top sales returns in both Britain and Ireland, bringing millions of euros into the Wexford economy..
The national champions were honoured at the 37th Irish Point to Point awards gala at the Knightsbrook Hotel, Trim, Co. Meath recently.
Jamie Codd took the Irish Field champion rider's title after a sustained battle with Barry O'Neill, pulling clear in the last couple of weeks to win by 68 to 59, after both had been left to fight it out when perennial champion, Derek O'Connor, lost the bones of the last two months through injury.
Rob James from Killanne suffered the same fate but his 25 winners still gave him sixth place, and Harley Dunne (The Ballagh) was ninth with twelve winners. These totals may not seem remarkable but they illustrate how fiercely competitive the whole scene is.
Nearly 120 riders got among the winners, and 40 of them had to be content with just one success. Wexford-based riders had almost 220 winners in the season.
The stiff competition is also shown by the fact that Jamie's 68 is the lowest winning total for more than a decade; he lost a few weeks at the start of the season after a first weekend injury. The true merit of his success is reflected in his overall strike rate of nearly 29% wins from his 239 rides, the best figure he has ever achieved in his 17 years on the circuit.
Jamie also picked up the Racing Post Senior rider award in his first year in this category, confined to those over 33 years of age, and he is the Eastern Region champion for eleven years in succession, since he succeeded Robbie Moran in 2005.
Codd is now just ten short of a remarkable 800 point-to-point career wins, a total only exceeded by Derek O'Connor who has topped the thousand mark. He decorated his work again this year with track wins at the three main festivals, Cheltenham, the Aintree National meeting and Punchestown. He is a worthy champion.
It has also been a best-ever year for runner-up Barry O'Neill; his 59 wins surpass his previous best total of 52 a couple of seasons ago, and his 23% strike rate from 257 rides is another personal best. Barry achieved another milestone when he clocked up his 350th career win a few weeks ago. He has been in demand on the track and scored a great win for Robert Tyner at the Punchestown Festival.
Rob James set a new personal seasonal record with his 25 wins and he would surely have added quite a few more but for that broken arm in Ballysteen in Limerick which ended his season in mid-April.
Harley Dunne cemented his steady progress with his dozen winners from fewer opportunities. The same could be said for Jimmy O'Rourke (Ballycogley) whose nine winners was his best so far and put him in 15th place in the table.
Other Wexford riders who had multiple wins include Shane O'Rourke (Foulksmills), Mark Scallan (Cleariestown), J.J. Slevin (Kiltrea, Enniscorthy), Gary Murphy (Ballycullane), veteran Benny Walsh (Cleariestown), John Doyle (Ballindaggin), and Shane Fitzgerald, the Cork lad who works with Michael Goff in Ferns.
It was a particularly memorable season for a few who recorded their first career wins, including Seán O'Keeffe of the Harveystown dynasty; Tiernan Roche, Tomhaggard; Michael Tobin who works with Denis Murphy at The Ballagh; Conor Murphy from Ramsgrange and Barry John Walsh from Ballyday, Gorey - the latter two going on to add a second win.
There is a chance now to re-charge the batteries for a few months until the action resumes in September.