Listed Chase a bonus for track
THE HIGHLIGHT of Wexford racecourse's year was the first running of the Listed MW Hickey Memorial Chase on Sunday last. With a total of seven races on offer, the Wexford track was the centre of attention for all race-goers in the south-east.
Following heavy rain on the previous day the going was soft, yielding in places, but as they raced on a fresh strip of ground the course held up very well for the card. On a day of fine sunshine a reasonable attendance saw a number of noteworthy performances.
In the equine world 'Double Seven' recorded his fifth win in a row this season for J.P. McManus and his trainer, Martin Brassil. McManus, a long-time supporter of national hunt racing, saw his silks carried to success on three occasions with 'Double Seven', 'Carriganog' and 'Hospital' all winning for the Co. Limerick native.
Not to be outdone, Co. Waterford-based trainer Henry De Bromhead saddled a nice double with 'Bendanella' and 'Sizing Australia', while young claiming jockey Kevin Sexton scored a double as did Mark Walsh. With three winning favourites and four well-supported other winners, bookies didn't have it all their own way. Racecourse management were pleased to see the return of a Listed contest for the first time since 2005 and their intention is to continue to build upon progress at the track over future years.
The Hickey family from Garryrichard sponsored the MW Hickey Memorial Steeplechase run over two miles and six furlongs. With six runners facing the starter, 'Double Seven', a seven-year-old by 'Milan', was punters' favourite at 5/4 as he attempted to win this pot to add to his Munster national win at Limerick two weeks ago.
Mark Walsh had the Martin Brassil-trained horse in mid field as 'Ballinahow Lady' under John Cullen tried to win from the front. Walsh took charge of the race at the second last and went on to win comfortably. Winning trainer Brassil stated: 'The opportunity was here, the ground was raceable today, his novice allowance made it an attractive option. He will be back in the spring to take part in some of the decent handicaps at that time'.
His winning breeders, Martin and Marie Doran of Parkville Stud in Foulksmills, were on hand to participate in the victory celebrations. They will be hoping that this horse will add further to the winning pedigree from their dam that they have in their stud.
McManus is one of the biggest investors in Irish National Hunt racing and having bought 'Carriganog' ten to twelve days ago his racing manager, Frank Berry, was on hand to welcome him home after winning the I.N.H Stallion Owners' EBF Novice Hurdle. Trained by Aidan O'Brien in Ballydoyle, the four-year-old 'Shantou' gelding was giving him a second hurdle win in ten years and won at 11/8 on.
Berry commented after: 'He did it grand, you couldn't ask for more. We will see what Aidan wants to do, maybe go for another novice'. This horse has a bit of size and the winning jockey, Robbie Power, will be hoping to continue his association if possible in future months.
The Whitford Hotel have long been supporters of the racecourse in Wexford and they sponsored the Jim Whitty Memorial Beginners' Steeplechase. McManus recorded his treble when 'Hospital', a five-year-old 'Kings Theatre' gelding, saw off all challengers under Mark Walsh to win comfortably at 7/1. 'Namarama', one of the market fancies, didn't get beyond the second fence here while another horse to note was 'Classic Event' who fell at the last when held in second place.
Racing opened with the two-mile Garryrichard Stud Maiden Hurdle which went to Noel Meade and Barry Geraghty with 'Ange Balafre'. This fine four-year-old son of 'Ange Gabriel' could be one for the future following his first victory over hurdles. His winning connections, The High Spirits Racing Club, indicate afterwards that the future of the French-bred horse would be mapped out by Meade.
Henry De Bromhead has built up a really nice yard in Co. Waterford and he notched a nice double here with 'Bendanella' in the Poolcourt Construction Maiden Hurdle and 'Sizing Australia' in the Martinstown Opportunity Handicap Hurdle.
Andrew Lynch took the mount on 'Bendanella' for the Cosgrave family from Enniscorthy to win at 5/1. The five-year-old 'Heron Island' gelding is home bred and comes from the family of 'Multim In Parvo', a successful little chaser of yesteryear.
This former winner at the Cheltenham festival in 2011 will return to that track in November to contest the cross-country race again.
Sexton, a seven-pound claiming professional, joined forces with Conor O'Dwyer's yard in the concluding bumper and conjured up a great run from 'Herons Heir' to pass 'Ballyroe Rambler' on the run to the line. O'Dwyer's wife, Audrey, stated: 'He's a nice horse, he did it really well. Conor always liked him but I don't know where we will go as the man himself is travelling between Galway and Fairyhouse as we speak'.
John Berry saddled two runners in this race and was happy to be second with 'Ballyroe Rambler', ridden by Mark Scallan, but everybody was concerned for the rider of his second horse, 'Jimmy Golan', following that horse's fall on the final circuit causing injury to P.J. O'Connor.