Doyle, Cloke on mark
Fruitful Wednesday at Punchestown
Wexford National Hunt connections had a very good day at Punchestown on Wednesday, having the first two home in two of the races, the winners coming from the yards of Seán Thomas Doyle (Ballindaggin) and Pat Cloke (Bree).
Doyle's Gracemount (6/1), owned by J.J. Kavanagh, had a deserved success in the mares' handicap hurdle, just reward under Mark Walsh for her consistency, though she had to work hard to hold the persistent challenge of Liz Doyle's Neural (11/2) under Alan Shortt.
Cloke's Flynnsini (16/1) caused a bit of shock in the three-mile handicap chase, ridden by J.J. Slevin from Caim and owned by Eamonn Sinnott. They had to battle hard to hold by a short head the challenge of the Paul Nolan-trained Fitzhenry (9/4f), ridden by Barry Geraghty for J.P. McManus. Jonathan Moore was doing duty for Noel Meade and won the maiden hurdle for him on Minella Fair (7/4f) with a strong ride.
In contrast, Thurles on Thursday and Limerick on Friday were blank days for Wexford, though Paul Nolan nearly Stole The Show (25/1) at Limerick, getting second in the novice hurdle with a horse of that name, behind Wait Here (10/3).
Nolan, who has been knocking on the door lately after a quiet time, pulled off a 66/1 shocker in the Irish Racing Year Book maiden hurdle at Fairyhouse on Saturday with Discorama, ridden by Kevin Sexton, getting up by a nose on the line from a Gigginstown hot-shot, Blow By Blow (9/10).
'I didn't think he'd be ready for that but he's a fair horse…hopefully he'll kick on from there,' Nolan said.
There was a big day's racing at Fairyhouse on Sunday, but the inequalities in the Irish racing scene were really clearly illustrated. Gordon Elliott and Gigginstown won the three Grade 1 races, the first time a trainer has completed this clean sweep of the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle (Gengli Khan), the Hatton's Grace hurdle (Apple's Jade), and the Drinmore Novice Chase (Death Duty).
There were just 19 runners in those races and Elliott supplied seven of them and Willie Mullins six. While the likes of Jessica Harrington, Henry De Bromhead and Noel Meade do challenge, the small yards don't really have much of a chance in the bigger races. The domination of the few must be a cause of some concern.
Best Wexford performance was second in the bumper for Liz Doyle and Finny Maguire with Remastered (20/1), well behind Downtown Getaway (14/1) for Katie Walsh and Mag Mullins.
Aidan O'Brien is in the off-season but it did not stop him sending one runner to Dundalk on Friday night to repeat the previous week's exercise, picking up the week's main prize with Clear Skies (5/2 jf) under son, Donnchadh, for J.P. McManus in the €25,000 Irishinjuredjockeys.com handicap.
Wexford riders had ten winners in Britain last week, putting in lots of hard miles in the process.
Tom O'Brien had three and began on Monday at Ludlow on Galactic Power (7/2f), for Robert Dickin. O'Brien and Daryl Jacob had just one spin each at Hereford on Wednesday.
O'Brien made it pay with a good win on Burrenbridge Hotel (10/1) in the first, while Jacob had to be content with second on Stage Summit (7/2) behind a money-on favourite.
Jacob got a winner out of his two rides for Ben Pauling at Towcester on Thursday aboard Perfect Pirate (3/1), but caught a tarter in the other when he and Linenhall (5/2) were unable to peg back the big lead of 66/1 shot Royal Magic.
Jamie Codd went over to Doncaster for a couple of rides on Friday, and picked up a very tight bumper by a head on Arcadio (10/11) for Olly Murphy. Tom O'Brien was a clear winner on No Ceiling (13/8f) for Ian Williams at the same venue.
After his big Grade 1 success the previous week, it was surprising to see Daryl Jacob plying his trade at lowly Bangor on Saturday but at least he got a winner on Uno Valorosa (4/1).
J.J. Slevin went over to Carlisle for a couple of rides for Steven Crawford on Sunday and had a win by a head in the big one, the £25,000 mares' handicap final, on Our Valentina (9/4f).
On the flat, Pat McDonald had winners at two meetings on Wednesday. He scored on Island Brave (3/1f), the last of his four rides at Wolverhampton, before hopping in the car and heading for Kempton for three more. There he won on Red Vernon (5/2) for Ed Dunlop by half a length.
I reckon he travelled over 560 miles for those two winners - a long, hard day's work as he left Kempton just before 8 p.m. for the 250+ miles trip home to Leyburn in North Yorkshire.
Jimmy Quinn from New Ross picked up his 19th winner of the season with his only spin at Southwell on Friday, on First Excel (11/4) for Steve Bowring.
Pat Dobbs, Enniscorthy, had another 27.5/1 double at Jebal Ali in the UAE for Doug Watson on Friday to maintain his good strike rate in the Desert States.