Runaway win for prolific Bowe in handlers' event
Colin Bowe had a runaway win in the Easyfix handlers' championship, retaining the crown he shared last year with Donnchadh Doyle and taking his fourth title in all with 34 wins, the best seasonal tally in his career so far. Doyle was second this time and the Wexford trainers were to the fore all over the country.
Derek O'Connor, eleven times champion rider and acknowledged point-to-point expert, summed it up in his Racing Post Column last week:
'On the training front the main feature was the domination of the Wexford stables…there was massive strength in depth to the Wexford influence, especially in the shop-window four-year-old maidens.'
The core of Colin Bowe's business at his well-appointed Milestone Stables beside Kiltealy village is buying in three-year-olds with a decent, recognised pedigree, preparing them to win their four-year-old point-to-point maiden and then it's off to the sales.
The successs of his strategy is clearly illustrated by his unprecedented figures in the past season; he won 22 of the important four-year-old maiden races, 17 of them in the spring campaign. He also made a massive impact in the sales rings, topping the prices achieved at the three spring festival sales at Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown.
He only began training himself ten years ago after learning his trade with two Wexford masters, Jim Bolger and Aidan O'Brien. While he has concentrated mostly on point-to-point, he is also respected on his track forays and Shantou Flyer has been his most successful track performer in the past season, winning a three-mile chase at Cheltenham in October.
But it is in point to pointing that he is master of his trade and many of the horses he groomed at Kiltealy have gone on to major success. He also picked up the ITM Mares' handler's award on Saturday night.
Donnchadh Doyle learned the ropes for five years with Colin Bowe before setting up his own Monbeg yard three miles down the road at Ballindaggin. He follows the same business model as his mentor and he has quickly become a serious force to be reckoned with. He made a sluggish start this season but ended up a clear second with a highly respectable 19 winners.
His brother, Seán, also trains under the Monbeg banner and had a seasonal best tally of ten winners. Between them, Donnchadh and Seán made a huge impact on all the major sales this season.
In fourth place in the trainers' table was Denis Murphy, Ballyboy, The Ballagh, a consistent performer for the past decade, and this year he had 13 winners, including a number in the four-year-old maidens.
Seventh place with ten winners was shared by John Paul Brennan, Camolin, and Seán Doyle. Brennan had by far his best-ever season, his tally coming from just 44 runs by his 13 horses for a very good strike rate.
Michael Goff from Ferns had six winners from 29 runs in just his third season and had some notable sales success as he made it into the top 20 handlers.
In all, I calculate that 42 Wexford-based trainers shared 153 wins over the season, which is pretty impressive. Just to illustrate how diverse and competitive the sport is, and how difficult it is to get in that winners' enclosure, 134 trainers around the country managed to register just one victory.
They also sometimes have to compete with the big guns from the track scene and the likes of Willie Mullins, Joseph O'Brien, Gordon Elliott, Henry de Bromhead, Shark Hanlon and others dipped their toes in this season.
Others from Wexford who had multiple wins included Willie Codd (Mayglass), Vincent Devereux (Rostoonstown), Liam Kenny (Craanford), Ashleigh Murphy (Duncormick), Shea Slevin (Kiltrea, Enniscorthy), Lorcan D'Arcy, Pat Doyle (Courtown motor dealer), James W. Doyle (Monageer), Gordon Doyle (New Ross), Paul Nolan, Leonard Whitmore (Blackwater), Paul Martin Pierce (Killurin), Denis Moore (Kilmore Quay), Seamus Neville (Bridgetown), Paul Michael Power (The Hook), John Patrick Walsh (Ballyday, Gorey).
Others who made it to the winners' enclosure include: Noel Dooly (Courtnacuddy), Liam Byrne (Clonroche), Don Cashman (Rathgarogue), and Jim O'Keeffe (Harveystown), a second career win for each of them; Seán Finn (Killinick), John Martin Walsh (Duncormick), John A. Berry (Blackwater, former champion rider), Liz Doyle (Crossabeg, former champion lady rider), and Richie Rath (Screen).
Some who were getting just reward for persistence included: Jenny Roche (Murrintown), a second win in five years; Paddy Cloke (Bree) whose first win in five years was at his local Bree Hunt meet in Monksgrange; Jim Mernagh (Davidstown), a second win after seven years; P.J. O'Gorman (Bunclody), first win for five years; Diarmuid O'Sullivan (Bunclody vet.), his first win after 15 years.
I want to particularly mention those in Wexford for whom it was a breakthrough season with first-ever wins (and forgive me if anyone has been missed out).
These include Shirley Berry (Tomhaggard), Richard Black (Bunclody), Bernadette Murphy (Blackwater, sister of Denis of Ballyboy), Kieran Roche (Adamstown), and Mark Scallan (Cleariestown), the well known-rider who had his first winner as a trainer.
Ivan Walker (Bunclody) won twice with Three Swallowsnick, while James W. Doyle (Monageer) also won twice. Hugh Doyle (Blackwater) had two wins and two places from eight runs with his one horse, Mia's Milan, after seven win-less years.
The leading trainers will now be heading back to the sales, this time to buy horses to restock their yards.
For the smaller handlers, there is a chance to draw breath for a while after the thousands of miles travelled before the circuit resumes in mid-September.