Ruby shines at Bettyville
Two out of three wasn't bad at all for top-notch jockey
There was a bumper crowd to enjoy some very good racing, in pleasant weather for the most part, at the traditional opener to the year's racing at Bettyville, Wexford, on St. Patrick's Day.
The big attendance was reflected in a jump of more than 100% in the aggregate Tote takings compared to the same day last year, up from €71,000 to €145,000.
It was a profitable visit to Wexford for jockey Ruby Walsh, fresh from his latest Cheltenham triumphs; he had two good winners of more than €22,000 from his three rides. The odd one out was on Cootamundra for Wexford trainer John Berry, which finished a creditable fourth in the day's €25,000 feature event, the Arctic Tack Stud Veterans' Handicap Chase (sponsored by Eoin Banville of the Arctic Tack Stud).
This race, for runners aged ten years and older, was very popular as it included many good horses familiar to racing fans over the years, including double Cheltenham Festival victor, Alderwood, which went off 5/2 favourite under another Cheltenham hero, Davy Russell. However, Alderwood never got going and had to be pulled up.
Instead the €16,000 first prize was picked up by Rubi Light, trained by Robbie Hennesy in Meath and ridden by regular pilot, Andrew Lynch.
It was a thrilling finish with Rubi being headed at the last by He'llberemembered under Paddy Kennedy, but Lynch got stuck in and Rubi Light reasserted to win close to home.
Casey Top, the twelve-year-old trained by Leonard Whitmore in Blackwater, was not disgraced in sixth place under young Wexford apprentice, Jonathan Moore.
Ruby Walsh kept the punters happy with two winning favourites. In the Micheál O Murchadha Memorial Rated Hurdle (sponsored by Saltees Shellfish, New Ross), he cruised to success on I Shot the Sheriff at even money, trained by Tony Martin.
This race honoured the late Micheál O Murchada, one of the founders and long-time associates of the Bettyville track which opened in 1951; he was father of Michael Murphy, current long-serving Chairman and Managing Director of Wexford racecourse.
Ruby Walsh was back in the winners' enclosure within half an hour having clinched another €11,000 purse after an all the way success on Davinia's Tip, the 3/1 favourite saddled by former champion jockey, Adrian Maguire, from Cork.
This was in the Christy Lynch of the Order of Malta Memorial Novice Chase. Former Wexford resident, David Casey, was second on Hop In for Arthur Moore.
Davy Condon got the day off to a good start for favourite backers when he guided Skilled (9/4) to victory in the Wexford Racecourse Supporters' Club Maiden Hurdle for top Meath handler, Gordon Elliott.
The trend continued in the following two-mile maiden hurdle, with Niall Madden leading all the way on Tom Taaffe's I Knew Well to win by two lengths at a short 5/4.
This win was not overdue as the horse had finished second in each of his previous four races.
Race three was the St. Patrick's Day Novice Handicap Hurdle and this went to Westerner Point under Philip Enright, trained by Eoghan O'Grady in Mallow, Co. Cork. He was not without support and was backed into 4/1.
This was another that made nearly all the running and held on well from outsider, Mick The Boyo.
The card finished as usual with the Bumper (National. Hunt flat race); this was over two miles, four furlongs and was for mares only, sponsored by the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders' Fund. It was won by the well-backed Kala Brandy (3/1), ridden by Sonny Carey. It was trained in Cork by Tim Townend, father of top jockey Paul who had three winners at the recent Cheltenham festival.
This result proved once again that one should never give up as this was Tim's first winner for four years.
Second here, in the best Wexford performance of the day, was Tigroney (12/1) who stayed on really well under young seven-pound claimer, F. Maguire, for Crossabeg-based trainer, Liz Doyle. Ruby Walsh's sister, Katie, was third on the 15/8 favourite, Ten Times Better.
A splash of glamour was added to the bumper attendance by a group of elegant, sash-wearing contenders for the world famous Rose of Tralee pageant. The ladies will bid for the right to be the Wexford Rose at a special selection event in Whites Hotel on Easter Saturday night, April 4. Ireland's Own magazine is one of the Rose Festival sponsors.
The number of young racegoers in the large attendance was very notable and they certainly added lots of noise and colour as they gave vociferous support to their chosen runners.
The very young were also well looked after, with several bouncy castles being kept busy.
The next meeting in Wexford will be on Friday evening, April 10.