Codd pips O'Neill in battle of champions
Stylish ladies bring a welcome dash of glamour to well-attended racing night
Wexford's Bettyville racetrack hosted one of its best attended and liveliest meetings for some time on Friday, with the event being promoted by the Wexford Ladies' Gaelic Football Association and also featuring the Monart Destination Spa-sponsored most stylish ladies competition which brought a dash of glamour to the proceedings. It was all helped by the fact that the afternoon rain cleared off to leave it a very pleasant evening.
Wexford success was limited but there were wins for jockeys J.J. Slevin and Jamie Codd, and Kildare-based trainer, Conor O'Dwyer, who is a native of Wexford town.
The concluding Irish Stallion Farms bumper (flat) race produced a battle between two Irish champion jockeys from county Wexford. Jamie Codd is current amateur riding champion after pipping Patrick Mullins last season, while Barry O'Neill in turn pipped Codd to take his first National point-to-point title in June.
Codd was on board Gordon Elliott's Osco Mosco, second in her last three outings, and went off at 6/5 favourite, while O'Neill rode Lucca Lady (11/2), trained by Richie Rath at Screen, Curracloe, and this one had also been second in her previous two races.
As it happened, the two of them fought out the finish and were on terms with a furlong left, with O'Neill holding every chance. But Codd was on a driving run from the back on the favourite and he eventually prevailed by three-quarters of a length, despite edging left on the run-in.
This was Codd's sixth win of the season though he has been finding it hard to get ahead of Patrick Mullins in recent races. It was also a fine effort by O'Neill who was point-to-point kingpin for the first time last season.
Jockey J.J. Slevin from Caim maintained his good recent run with his ninth winner of the season (putting him in the top dozen in the riders' table), and his third of the week after a double at Ballinrobe on Tuesday. He was a cosy winner of the €15,000 Adare Manor Opportunity handicap chase on I'm A Izz Wizz (4/1) for Liam Lennon who had made the long trip from Co. Down.
Second here was William Du Berlais (3/1f) for Enda Bolger and J.P. McManus, and third was Crosshue Boy (11/1), trained at Monmore, Ballindaggin, by Seán Doyle and ridden by Barry Foley from Waterford.
This was some compensation for Slevin who was unseated on the evens favourite, Valgor Du Ronceray, in the previous race, The Ferrybank Opel Beginners' Chase.
The race was won by Market's Field (14/1), trained by Enda Bolger in Bruree, Co. Limerick, and ridden by seven-pound claimer, Danny McInerney They just got up on the line from Seamus Fahey's (Kildare), Caniwillyegiveme (11/1).
Slevin had earlier finished a well-beaten second on Colin Bowe's Tranquil Magic (9/2) in the Ocean Harvest Technology handicap hurdle, behind Milestone Prince (7/2), ridden by Paddy Kennedy and trained in Goresbridge, Co. Kilkenny, by Michael McCullough - the horse's first win in 13 outings.
Wexford-born Conor O'Dwyer won two Cheltenham Champion Hurdles on Hardy Eustace and two Gold Cups on Imperial Call (1996) and War of Attrition (2006) in a long and successful riding career before setting up a training base in Kildare.
Winners have been hard enough to come by but things have been looking up a bit recently and his Prosperity Square (8/1) followed up on his June win at Wexford by scoring in the Opel 172 handicap chase, staying on well under the excellent Rachael Blackmore to hold off Presenting Mahler (12/1) under Danny Mullins.
The Opel (Ferrybank) prizes were presented by Mary and John O'Rourke, and this one was received by former Wexford Town Clerk (among other posts), Don Curtin, on behalf of winning owner, Owen Curtin.
There was a bit of an upset in the opener, the www.wexfordraces.ie maiden hurdle, when perennial champions, Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins, were beaten into second with Sharps Choice (11/8f), Ruby's only ride of the night, by Get Smart (6/1) under Danny Mullins for Margaret Mullins.
The favourite did oblige in the second, the Monart Handicap Hurdle, Martin Brassil's Kildare-trained I Will Follow (11/8) scoring snugly under Paul Townend, from Lockeen Girl (15/2) for David and Thomas Mullins.
Well done to all concerned on this very successful occasion, which was marked by a 90-page race card and programme packed with information and colourful advertising.
Five finalists were selected from the throng for the Most Stylish Lady competition, judged by fashion stylist and image consultant, Marietta Doran - Anne Marie Blake from Blackwater was overall winner, from Veronica Murphy, Eleanor Egan, Grace Cullen and Moira O'Toole.
The next meeting at Bettyville is on Saturday afternoon, September 2.