Doyle and James set a hot pace
Donnachadh Doyle and Rob James are farming the lucrative four-year-old maidens up north this season, winning for the third week running at Portrush on Saturday with Lone Rocket by a comfortable four lengths, and they won another at Athlone on Sunday.
Barry O'Neill had seconds on Oscar Academy for John Paul Brennan (Camolin) and Jasper Bear for David Christie (Fermanagh) before getting his winner on Kadmer in the Winner of Three, the horse's first outing for Christie.
Tinahely father and son, rider James and trainer John Walsh, combined for a handy win in the older geldings' maiden with Minimum Mix.
They did not have to travel as far on Sunday as the Shillelagh and District Hunt raced at the Fairwood track in Tinahely, and they struck for a local success in the older geldings' maiden for the second successive day, this time with No More Monkey, ahead of Harley Dunne on Philip Rothwell's (another local) Ask Harry.
Michael and Caitríona Goff got their season going with a clever Shane Fitzgerald ride on De Forgotten One in the four-year-old maiden, ahead of Luke Murphy (Inch) on Ellen Doyle's On My Wish List and Jamie Codd on Denis Murphy's Businessman.
Codd got on the board for the season with a double, on The Gallantway for David Harry Kelly (Tipp) in the five-year-old geldings' maiden, ahead of Luke Murphy on Bernadette Murphy's (Blackwater) Darsi Rose, and on Lough Derg Rose for Denis Murphy in the mares' Winner of One.
Shane Byrne from Blackwater handled his second mares' maiden winner in seven days, with Harley Dunne steering home An Rinceoir Alainn. Shane is brother of Denis Murphy's partner, Maria.
They also raced at The Pigeons, Athlone, on Sunday and Rob James and Donnachadh Doyle scored with Onthefrontfoot, ahead of Barry Stone on Ellen Doyle's Fancy Pance.
Simon Cavanagh works for Denis Murphy and they combined to win the older mares' maiden with Maliboo, owned by Simon's dad, Richard.
Rob James has had a flying start to the season and he made it a double on Mill Race King when he stood in for the injured handler, Benny Walsh (Murrintown), in the older geldings' maiden.
Barry O'Neill had to wait until the end to get his winner, Didarro, for local Brian Dillon in the confined race.
O'Neill leads James by seven to six in the riders' race at this early stage. Colin Bowe and Donnchadh Doyle lead the handlers' table with four wins each.
I don't like missing out on milestone first-time successes for local connections, and last week I did it in style, for which I must apologise.
At Loughrea, Unexpected Depth (by Shantou), a 10/1 outsider, provided a first-ever win for young Barry Stone from Bargy Commons, Cleariestown, and his boss, first-year handler Ellen Doyle from Coolgarrow, Enniscorthy.
They beat champion combination, Colin Bowe and Barry O'Neill, into second on Pistol Whipped (4/5f).
Nineteen-year-old Barry tells me he has been around horses since he was five and got lots of help and advice from his uncle, well-known rider for many years, Benny Walsh from Murrintown.
He spends most of his week working with handler Ellen Doyle (Mary E on the racecard) who is sister of James Doyle who has been running the Baltimore stable operation at Coolgarrow for several years and sent out three winners last season.
While James is still very much involved, Ellen has taken over the training reins this season and has almost 40 horses in her care. She has 15 or so to run before Christmas and the rest for the new year. She is looking forward to the challenge.
This weekend they race at Loughbrickland, Co. Down (Saturday), and Dowth Hall, Co. Meath (Sunday).