Doyle and Bowe neck-and-neck in tight battle
The long and gruelling point-to-point season comes to a conclusion next weekend with two-day fixtures in Kinsale and Ballingarry, Tipperary, and the main focus of attention is the intense battle for the national trainers' championship between Donnchadh Doyle, Ballindaggin, who is going for his first title, and Colin Bowe of Kiltealy who has been champion twice before.
Doyle went into last weekend's two fixtures trailing Bowe by just one, 25-24. He had a great couple of days, scoring four winners, including two under champion rider elect, Derek O'Connor, his first-ever winners for the Doyle stable.
With just three races left on Sunday, Doyle was three ahead of his Wexford rival and looking good. But Bowe was not giving up without a fight and he struck back. He had a double success with Barry O'Neill to cut the deficit to one, 28 winners to 27, and it is all up for grabs next weekend.
The North Kerry Harriers meeting was switched from Ballybunion to Tralee on Saturday and the first three races were all won by Wexford connections, with Donnchadh Doyle's double putting him one ahead of Bowe in the trainers' championship.
Doyle opened with a win for Monbeg Notorious (Milan-Borleagh Princess) under Barry O'Neill in the four-year-old maiden for the Monbeg Syndicate. He finished five lengths ahead of the Derek O'Connor-ridden Western Cape.
Doyle completed his double in the five-year-old mares' maiden, which provided an all-Wexford finish. Champion jockey elect, Derek O'Connor, rode his first winner for the Ballindaggin stable on Savingforvegas (Beneficial-Peggy Cullen), and the Monbeg Syndicate. He took it up before three out and won impressively.
He was 20 lengths clear of Lastbutnotleast, ridden by Barry O'Neill for trainer Colin Bowe and owner Brendan P. Walsh, while third was Rosalen, trained by Shirley Berry and ridden by Anthony James Doyle.
The five-year-old geldings' maiden provided a winner for trainer Denis Murphy from The Ballagh in the shape of the huge Call Me Ben (Beneficial-Good Foundation), a good-looking chasing prospect ridden by Jamie Codd for Thomas O'Sullivan. He was getting the better of a battle with Billy Boy when that one fell at the final fence and left him clear.
On Sunday, the action switched to the Carbery Foxhounds meeting at Clonakilty in Cork. In the opening four-year-old maiden, Harley Dunne made practically all the running and chipped in another winner for Donnchadh Doyle and the Monbeg Syndicate on Big Windmill (Stowaway-Neighbours Wage). He was a length ahead of Jamie Codd on one for the Shark Hanlon, while Doyle also saddled third, Rocknrobin, under Corky Carroll for Michael J. Murphy.
Since Christmas the Doyle stable has had a remarkable strike rate in the four-year-old maiden races, and this was his eighth such success of the season.
In the five-year-old geldings' maiden, Derek O'Connor rode his second winner ever, and his second in two days, for the Doyle stable, and owner John Fitzhenry. In a hard-fought struggle, O'Connor pushed and got up by a neck on Next Lot (Mountain High-Martha Reilly) from Colin Bowe's Mr. Elevator, ridden by Barry O'Neill for Jason Higgins. Third was Mahler Bay, ridden by Jamie Codd for trainer, Denis Murphy.
He was now leading Bowe by 28 to 24 in the title battle and looking good. In the five-year-old mares' maiden, the Bowe and O'Neill combination had to settle for second again, Out Like That coming in three lengths behind Model Cloud, ridden by C.W. Fennessy for Michael Winters.
However, the duo finished the day strongly and scored a double success to keep the trainers' title race very much in the melting pot going into the final weekend with Doyle just one ahead, 28 wins to Bowe's 27.
In the winner of one the pair scored on Matthew Byrne's Honourable Exit (Exit to Nowhere- Honor Love), coming home ten lengths clear, and in the concluding six-year-old plus geldings' maiden, O'Neill and Bowe won impressively on the Milestone Racing Partnership's Phangio (Invasor-Muneera).
The scene is now set for a cracking finale to the long season with just four racing days left. The South Union Foxhounds two-day fixture is in Kinsale on Saturday and Sunday, and the closing meet, organised by the Ormond Foxhounds on Sunday and Monday, is at Ballingarry in Tipperary.