Very fruitful day in Galway for James and Black
It was a hectic weekend on the point-to-point scene with five meetings providing action in Wexford, Down, Galway, Cork and Tipperary, and the Wexford connections spread their net wide with six riders grabbing eleven winners, while nine trainers shared eight winners between them.
Rob James from Tomona, Killanne, led the way and was star of show at the North Galway Foxhounds at Belclare, Tuam; he made the long journey very worthwhile with three winners and two seconds.
It was a special day also for Richard Black from Bunclody who trained his first-ever winner with Thomas Do (Flemensfirth-Loughaderra), following up on his recent second to romp home in the five- and six-year-old geldings' maiden. His dad, Anthony, trained a couple of winners two seasons ago.
The other Rob James winners were Topofthegame (Flemenfirth-Derry Vale) in the four-year-old maiden for Donnchadh Doyle (Ballindaggin) and the Monbeg Syndicate, Doyle's third winner in eight days; and Graces Island (Trans Island-Eyres and Graces) for Donnchadh's brother, Seán Thomas Doyle, and owner J.J. Kavanagh in the mares' winner of two.
His two seconds were on Sheneededtherun for Colin Bowe in the older mares' maiden, and on Dark Valley for John Neilan in the adjacent hunts' maiden.
The North Down Foxhounds raced at Kirkistown on Saturday. Barry O'Neill and Colin Bowe kept up their recent good run with a clear win in the opening four-year-old maiden with Oscar Mor (Oscar-Gran Chris) for Seán Wickham.
Oscar Mor may join a number of other recent Bowe winners at the Cheltenham sales this week.
O'Neill completed a double later on his old friend, The Hard Hat, for David Christie, beating Jamie Codd by a length on Butney Rock for Colm McBratney.
Codd had to be content with a couple of other places, including a third on The Wise One in the five-year-old geldings' maiden for his brother, Willie, and the Rinn Dubhain Syndicate.
The Premier Harriers meeting at Horse and Jockey, Tipperary, attracted just 42 runners and limited Wexford involvement.
Colin Bowe had to be satisfied with second in the four-year-old maiden here with Alright Chief, ridden by Pa King, behind Andrew Slattery's impressive Cadeyrn.
Liz Doyle (Crossabeg) had to settle for second also with Middlebrow in the five- and six-year-old geldings' maiden, behind a smart looking Orchestral Run, trained by Edward O'Grady
The Kilworth and Araglen Harriers in Co. Cork drew 50 runners and was dominated by the Munster brigade, though Jimmy O'Rourke from Ballycogley did manage two seconds - for Denis Murphy on Tree of liberty in the four-year-old mares' maiden, and on Mount Oliver for Mary Louise Hallahan in the older horses' maiden.
Champion rider Derek O'Connor had a blank weekend and Barry O'Neill's three winners moved him to 30, now just two behind; Jamie Codd is on 29 and Rob James fourth on 20.
In the trainers' list, Colin Bowe leads on 16 from David Christie on twelve, with Donnchadh Doyle and John Paul Brennan (Camolin) in a share of third on eight each.
There is no let-up with five more meetings scheduled for next weekend, in Maralin, Co. Down, on Saturday, and on Sunday at Liscarroll near Mallow, Athenry in Galway, Ballyragget in Kilkenny and Lisronagh, near Clonmel.
The Bree Foxhounds race at Monksgrange, Rathnure, on Sunday week, March 27, and that will bring the action right back to our doorsteps as it intensifies in the ever-improving weather.