O'Leary flying high as Flanagan takes the big one
The Gigginstown House colours of Ryanair boss, Michael O'Leary, were flying high over Bettyville racecourse on bank holiday Monday for day two of the Wexford Festival meeting as he won four races with four different trainers, including a very well-contested feature, the €28,500 listed M.W. Hickey Memorial Chase, which went to local jockey, Seán Flanagan.
Flanagan was on the odds-on favourite, Noel Meade's high-class Genie in a Bottle (1/2), in the feature race and he cut out the running from the start. He was under a bit of pressure up the finishing straight but kept finding and resisted Jack Kennedy on Gordon Elliott's Tiger Roll (11/2) by a length and a half, with last year's winner, Bay of Freedom (5/1), back in third.
The following IRIS Racing Footage Beginners' Chase was almost a replica with the same two riders fighting it out on another pair of Gigginstown/O'Leary horses. In this one victory went to Kennedy on Elliott's Dinaria Des Obeaux (2/1) by a neck from Flanagan on Meade's Le Martalin (6/4f). It was a brave bid by Flanagan but the 16 pounds less carried by the winner was telling in the end.
Henry De Bromhead chipped in for Gigginstown with a cosy win for High School Days in the IRIS First For Racing Novice Hurdle under seven-pound claimer Chris Meehan, from Get Smart for Danny and Margaret Mullins.
Joseph O'Brien completed the four-timer in the concluding Jim Whitty Memorial bumper when Imperial Way (5/4) won by five lengths under Patrick Mullins, from Noel Meade's Mad Carew, ridden by Nina Carberry (6/5f).
This event honoured the memory of the Whitford House Hotel founder who was a keen racing man.
Joseph had a first and last race double as he won the opening Nick O'Donnell Memorial maiden hurdle (in honour of the star hurling full-back from Wexford's golden era in the 1950s and 60s) with Early Doors (4/6f) under Mark Walsh for J.P. McManus, a length and a half ahead of Seán Flanagan on Meade's Niven (11/2).
Ricky Doyle, a five-pound claimer from Kildare town, scored his first double when he won successive races, starting with the Adare Manor handicap hurdle. Appropriately, Limerick trainer Donncha Duggan took this prize home and justified the long trip with Antimatter (7/2). Seán Doyle from Ballindaggin's Gracemount (5/2) was favourite but had to be content with third under Shane Shortall.
Ricky Doyle followed up in the Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles maiden hurdle with Come Home Quick for Mark Fahey from Kildare in a dramatic finish which saw just over a length and a half divide the first five.
Colin Bowe from Kiltealy's Ceatharlach (11/8) was the well-backed favourite under Paddy Kennedy and made a gallant bid. He led at the last but was caught by two outsiders bursting from the pack in the closing yards. Come Home Quick (16/1) did just that to get up by a nose from Cousin Pascal (33/1) under David Splaine, with Bowe's horse just a short head back in third.
And so another season of racing at Bettyville ends and, overall, it has been a pretty good year.
The change of direction to anti-clockwise has now been bedded in and the uphill finish has produced a better test and some exciting finishes.
The change and the widening of the track has attracted support from the top stables and the standard of horses has certainly improved in the bigger races.
The widening of the final bend has also been completed and there seems little reason now why the race limit should not be put back to 16 horses next season from the current 14.
Well done to Managing Director, Michael Murphy, Mary Ballantyne and all the staff.
They will be already thinking of the 2018 season which kicks off with the traditional St. Patrick's Day meeting next March.