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Saturday 16 December 2017

Bettyville the place to be this weekend

with DICK WHITE

THE WINTER racing highlight at Bettyville will be staged over the Halloween Bank Holiday weekend on Saturday and Sunday next. With the change over to 'winter time' taking place between the two fixtures, racegoers should be prepared for significantly different starting times.

Notice should be taken that racing begins on Saturday at 1.55 p.m. while the flag falls for the first race on Sunday at 1.15 p.m. So don't get caught out!

The first day's racing sees the Casey Brothers, based in north Wexford, sponsor the entire card, with the Casey Precast Chase run over two miles, six furlongs being the afternoon's highlight.

Racing opens with a couple of maiden hurdles, one for maidens of all ages over two miles, with the second race focusing on four-year-olds run over four furlongs longer. These are followed by a conditions hurdle for mares over the same trip of two miles, four furlongs before the handicappers have their say over the minimum national hunt trip in the fourth race.

Two steeplechases are next on the card with the aforementioned Casey Precast Chase valued at €15,000 the day's feature before a beginners' chase and a mares' bumper brings the day to a conclusion.

The two-day fixture staged at the same time as the Wexford Opera Festival has been badly affected by the weather over the years and it is to be hoped that this year the meeting can be staged without any problems.

Michael Hickey of Garryrichard is commemorated with a handicap chase in his memory, valued at €15,000, which is the second day's feature race. It is supported by six more races, with the Martinstown Opportunity Handicap Hurdle and the INH Stallion Owners' Novice Hurdle being the other two most valuable. With the remaining card a mixture of hurdle, chase and bumper racing, the omens are good for two cracking days' racing.

JOSEPH TAKES BIG LEAD

Joseph O'Brien has taken a significant lead in the past week in this year's Flat Jockeys' Championship title race, with the 19-year-old now seven winners clear of Pat Smullen.

O'Brien, successful internationally at Ascot in Britain on Champions' Day on Saturday last with 'Excelebration' in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, has had a truly great year and being crowned as the top jockey in Ireland is the icing on the cake.

While it is true that his father Aidan's yard at Ballydoyle has an awesome number of horses to run for them, don't forget that they still have to run and win and it looks like an odds-on certainty that O'Brien Junior will take the title at season's end.

REVIEW OF THE WEEK

When the ground is heavy at Roscommon, it is very, very testing and so it proved on October 15, but that didn't stop Jamie Codd from opening 'Bonisland's account inside the rails when the 'Heron Island' gelding stayed on well to win at 7/2. Owned by Michael O'Leary of Ryanair, 'Bonisland' looks very promising for the connections.

On the same card, Joseph O'Brien won the handicap on 'Dusty Trail' for south Kilkenny-based Eoin Doyle and Paul Holden. O'Brien had to encounter heavy ground the next day at The Curragh but he still booted home 'Kingdom' and 'Sidereus Nuncius' for his father, Aidan.

Over jumps, Punchestown was rained off one day but they did race on October 18 when John Berry sprang a surprise with 'Civena' under Paul Townend at 16/1 in the handicap hurdle, while David Casey went in again in a Graded race on 'Baily Green' for Mouse Morris, justifying favouritism at 5/2.

BETWEEN THE FLAGS

Racing in the North of Ireland is one of a number of popular destinations for local yards here in Wexford. The Iveagh Foxhound meeting held at Maralin, Co. Armagh, proved just why, with a couple of nice wins for Jamie Codd and Barry O'Neill.

Codd joined forces again with Denis Murphy when the five-year-old 'Milan' mare, 'Francis Street', opened her account to win in the colours of owner/breeder John Place.

Barry O'Neill got on the scoreboard when David Christie gave him the leg up on 'Kerryhead Storm', a seven-year-old gelding by 'Glacial Storm, to win in a tight finish.

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