Saturday trend bucked by style-loving ladies
Saturday afternoon flat racing has been dying the death in recent years, but last Saturday's Monart Destination Hotel and Spa Ladies' Day meeting at Bettyville certainly bucked that trend.
There was an enthusiastic attendance and a remarkable €144,000-plus was wagered on the Tote, compared to just €85,000 last year. It was also the first time in over 50 years that the horses ran anti-clockwise on the flat, and it worked out well.
The ladies certainly came out in force and added lots of glamour and colour to the occasion, and most of them had their male escorts in tow, while the bouncy castles were popular with the children. This was a great introduction to racing as a day out for many people who might be only occasional supporters. All involved can take a bow.
The flat-racing fraternity had expressed some doubts about the change of direction at the track but their fears were unfounded and everything went without a hitch. The horses charging at speed right past the stands up the long home straight certainly contributed greatly to the atmosphere. It was the last meeting before the Galway marathon and some of the runners may figure again later in the week.
Limiting the flat races to a maximum of ten runners now seems a bit conservative and it is to be hoped this will be increased to at least twelve runners per race, which has an impact on the each-way returns to punters. Some of the top jockeys in these islands were in action, including multiple Classic winners Joseph O'Brien, Kevin Manning and Seamus Heffernan.
Direct Wexford interest was scarce enough, though Paul Nolan had a second and the Oylegate maestro, Jim Bolger, did get a winner in the four-runner Shelmalier Median Auction Race, where Manning had an easy all-the way success on 2/1 favourite, Vocaliser.
Aidan O'Brien's son, Joseph, also had a winner from his two rides for National Hunt expert, John Kiely from Waterford. He held on by a head on 7/2 shot, Henry's Girl, in the Forth and Bargy Maiden from the fast-finishing Paul Nolan-trained Kennady, ridden by Wayne Lordan.
O'Brien was fancied to complete a double on the heavily-backed favourite, Deor, in the Monart Destination Hotel and Spa Ladies' Day Handicap. But he had to give best to 8/1 shot, Askamour, trained by Frank Dunne in Meath and ridden by Emmet McNamara, deputising for the injured Niall McCullagh.
Most successful rider on the day was Shane Foley from Graiguenamanagh, Kilkenny, who scored a first and last race double. He beat odds-on Faseeha from the Dermot Weld stable to win the first on For Goodness Sake (4/1), trained in Cork by John Joseph Murphy. In the last, he had an easy win on 5/4 favourite, High Kicker, who got in as a reserve for trainer Peter Fahey; this one was 5/1 in the morning.
An interesting runner here was Raise the Beat from Colm Murphy's Killenagh, Gorey, yard, which finished fourth about eight lenghts in arrears. It was his first run for 27 months; now ten years old, he might be worth keeping an eye on.
The Shelbourne Handicap (one mile, three furlongs) went comfortably to Duke of Medina (7/1), ridden by Chris Hayes for Kildare trainer, Pádraig Deegan, and the Scarawalsh App. Handicap was won by Daniel Redmond aboard the well-backed Liberty's Gift (9/2 from 10/1 in the morning), trained in Longford by Paul Flynn.
In the glamour stakes, overall winner of the Monart Destination Hotel and Spa best dressed lady competition was Liz Maher from Bagenalstown, from Louise Kehoe, Ferns; Sheila McCarthy, Wexford; Melissa Dooley, Kildare; Ruth Davis, Meath, and Juanita Spain, Waterford.
The next meeting in Wexford is on Saturday afternoon, August 29.