O'Neill double keeps him top
Local connections on song
The first local point-to-point meeting of the new season was staged by the Wexford Hunt at Moorfield, Ballinaboola, on Sunday in perfect weather and ground conditions, and it was a good day for the local connections, being involved in four of the six winners, with Barry O'Neill riding a double to stay in front of the jockeys' table.
The fact that four meetings were staged over the weekend may have resulted in the smallish entry of 43 horses, but the big crowd was treated to some excellent racing and the committee deserve credit for all the arrangements.
The Eden Manor Bridal and Formal Wear four-year-old maiden was Wexford dominated, providing Ashleigh and Michael Murphy from Duncormick with their first win of the season, Mark Scallan scoring on If You Say Run (Mahler-De Lissa). The Murphy horses are in good form as they had two others placed.
Second was Harley Dunne on Liam Kenny's Take Me Out; third, Barry O'Neill on Colin Bowe's Cagliostro, and fourth was John A. Berry's Sunrise Lady under Shane O'Rourke (Foulksmills).
Barry O'Neill's first win came in the Nitrofert Adjacent Mares' Maiden, and it was hard-earned. He got up by a head on Moneystown (Touch of Land-Karinga Duff) trained at Camolin by John Paul Brennan, from Save the Pennies, ridden by Garry Murphy (Ballycullane) for Ashleigh Murphy. Devitosgoldengirl was third under Shane Fitzgerald for Shane C. Byrne.
There were just two finishers from four runners in the Cooney Furlong Winner of One, with Touchy (Touch of Land-Jerpoint Rose) winning under Eddie Keating (Gusserane) for P.J. O'Gorman (Bunclody) and owner Mary Lett.
Second was Spud's Trouble, ridden by Shane O'Rourke for Lorcan D'Arcy.
Their path was eased when Denis Moore's recent winner, Barn Braq, fell at the third last.
Ashleigh Murphy had to accept second again in the Ballywalter Farms Open, as her Better B. Quick under Gary Murphy had to give way to Tom Foley's Followmeuptocarlow. Barry O'Neill was third on John Brennan's Need to Know.
Brennan also took second in the Horse and Hound Inn five-year-old geldings' maiden with Kilmurray Breezer, rideen by Harley Dunne; they were well behind Andrew Slattery's (Nenagh) Dimple, with Land League third for Barry O'Neill and Colin Bowe.
O'Neill completed his double in the concluding Casey Enterprises older horses' maiden on Buzzkillbob for Seán Byrne from Athy, ahead of Nothingeasy, under Shane O'Rourke for Vincent and Jimmy Devereux (Rostoonstown), and Wexford Bridge, ridden by Mark Scallan for John Martin Walsh of Duncormick.
Barry O'Neill is leading in the riders' championship on 14 winners, three ahead of Jamie Codd, with Noel McParland from up north third on eight. Perennial champion, Derek O'Connor, has missed a few weeks with an arm injury. Champion Colin Bowe leads the trainers' table at this early stage with five winners.
There were thin pickings for Wexford connections at the Co. Down Hunt at Loughbrickland on Saturday with Jamie Codd the only winner, and that was on Grand Jesture for the Jim Dreaper/Alan Potts pairing in the open race.
There was almost another as Jimmy O'Rourke (Ballycogley) was just pipped by an odds-on favourite in the concluding older geldings' maiden on Sprintingforgold, trained by James Doyle of Monageer, for the Monbeg Syndicate.
There was some competitive racing at the Duhallow Hunt meeting at Dromahane, with 80 runners and the four-year-old maiden being divided.
Division 1 was shared as two Wexford horses dead-heated - Colin Bowe's Regal D'Argent (King's Theatre-Regle D'Or) ridden by Rob James, and James Doyle's Maria's Benefit (Beneficient-Youngborogal), ridden by Richie Harding, could not be parted.