In the thick of it!
Jockeys busy on both sides of Irish Sea
The jump racing scene is getting into full stride and a lot of the top horses are beginning to re-appear after their summer break.
Wexford jockeys Seán Flanagan, Daryl Jacob and Tom O' Brien were in the thick of the big-race action on Saturday on both sides of the Irish Sea, at Down Royal, Wetherby and Ascot.
Down Royal staged the biggest meeting of the year in the North and Seán Flanagan was riding for his boss, Noel Meade, and Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown operation in the two feature races.
He made all with a confident ride in the €50,000 Grade 2 chase on the top-class Disko (5/4), in his first outing for nearly 200 days, to win by half a length from Ballyoisin (4/1) and Barry Geraghty.
Half an hour earlier he had contested the first Grade 1 of the new season in Ireland, the €140,000 JNwine.com Champion Chase aboard Road to Respect (7/2). He looked like landing the big one when leading over the last but was collared on the run-in by Outlander (16/1), ridden by Jack Kennedy for Gordon Elliott.
Earlier still, Flanagan had fought out a great duel on Dis Donc (2/1 jf) before being caught close home by Mark Walsh on Ten Ten (9/2) for J.P. McManus. It was a good afternoon's work for the man from Palace East.
At almost exactly the same time, Daryl Jacob was mirroring Flanagan's performance in the two big features at Wetherby. He took the prestigious Grade 2 £100,000 Charlie Hall Chase on Bristol De Mai (6/1) for Nigel Twiston-Davies and his retained owner, Simon Munir. The race was notable for the fall of Cue Card and the poor run of former Gold Cup winner, Coneygree.
In the previous race, the £40,000 Grade 2 Bet365 hurdle, Jacob was on Wholestone (2/1 jf) for Twiston-Davies and looked like a winner but could not reel in Colin's Sister (10/1), ridden by Paddy Brennan for Feargal O'Brien.
Tom O' Brien was heavily engaged at Ascot on Saturday and he got a marvellous run out of Quite By Chance (7/1) for Colin Tizzard in the listed £60,000 Byrne Group handicap chase as he attempted to win the race for the second year in a row. However, he was unable to fend off Exitas (11/2) which had a huge 28 pounds pull in the weights.
Jacob also had a winner at Wetherby on Friday, Carlos Du Fruitier (8/11) for Ben Pauling, and won at Stratford on Thursday on Linenhall (10/3) for the same trainer, while O'Brien scored on his only ride at Huntingdon on Sunday with Speedo Boy (1/1) for Ian Williams.
On the flat, Pat McDonald had six more winners, bringing this year's tally to 110. He had a fantastic 299/1 double at Wolverhampton on Tuesday with Dr. Richard Kimble (12/1) for Mark Johnston and Island Brave (22/1), beating the 7/4 favourite. He won at Chelmsford on Thursday aboard Baghdad (7/4f) for Johnston.
On the all-weather at Newcastle, McDonald won on Al Galayel (9/4) for Luca Cumani on Friday and on Saturday had a double there, Global Tango (2/1) for Charles Hills and Envisaging (4/11) for James Fanshaw.
It was a quiet week for Wexford connections on the home front after Monday's double bill at Wexford and Galway and, ironically, there was more Wexford success at the western venue than at home.
With Seán Flanagan on duty for Noel Meade at Wexford, Jonathan Moore picked up a nice book of rides for him at Galway. He conjured up a blistering late run from Half the Odds to win the opener at 10/1.
Paul Nolan has been having a lean time of it for the past while but picked up his third winner of the season in the €20,000 John Mulholland Bookmakers handicap hurdle with Mon Lino (5/1), ridden by rising star, Donie McInerney, for J.P. McManus.
Jamie Codd won the bumper for Gordon Elliott on Moonlight Escape (7/4f), well clear of Barry O'Neill on Robbie McNamara's Ratoute Yutty (7/1).
There was another Wexford success at Galway which went under the radar a bit - 13-year-old Tomcoole Lad (9/1) jumped the opposition silly and romped in by 22 lengths in a two miles six handicap chase, ridden by Mark Enright, and trained by Dick Donohoe near Goresbridge.
The veteran was bred and is still owned by Donal Doyle, Tomcoole, Barntown, and this reward was richly deserved as he has nursed this horse through an injury-troubled career. Donal's son-in-law, Frank Jordan, of the Mace shop near Wexford's Bullring, gives a helping hand and he says they were all delighted with the run.
'He seems to like Galway,' Frank said. 'He has won twice there from three runs, having won the same race in 2015.'
Tomcoole Lad may be an equine pensioner but there is no question of retirement for another while and he was heading for Fairyhouse on Tuesday.
The flat season ended at Naas on Sunday and Aidan O'Brien is champion trainer for the 20th year.
O'Brien had one Group 1 success at the Breeders Cup meeting in California with Mendelssohn, bringing his seasonal tally to 27. While horses like Lancaster Bomber and Highland Reel performed well, his star-studded 14-strong team were largely disappointing.
Some were not helped by poor draws, but Ryan Moore did not seem that comfortable on the tight, turning track and will not recall the meeting with fondness.
The O'Brien show moved to Australia for the Melbourne Cup early on Tuesday morning and his Johannes Vermeer had a definite chance
Former leading jumps trainer, Colm Murphy from Killenagh, Ballycanew, has begun a new career as a racecourse official with the Turf Club, making his debut as a trainee stewards' secretary at Navan on Wednesday. Murphy - winner of the 2006 Champion Hurdle with Brave Inca and the 2010 Queen Mother Champion Chase with Big Zeb - quit training in September, 2016.
'I saw this as a new challenge,' he said.