David Skelly's Irish Point Notes

Final “Pointers” for the New Year

In the third and final part of David Skelly's excellent Irish point analysis of the pre-Christmas maiden action, he adds another 14 horses to the list of noteworthy winners, including two who could be very smart. There is also a dark horse to look out for in handicaps squirreled away 'between the lines'.

If you missed them, Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here.

29 November 2015: Mainstown, Co. Tipperary (yielding-soft)

4yo maiden (Division I): 

Young Turk 4,g Poliglote (Pat Doyle) P- (R93)

If I climbed the tallest oak tree in my seventeen-acre walled estate I would be peering down on the lush sward of Mainstown which is the fourth different venue in recent years for the annual fixture of the Kilmoganny Foxhounds whose pack, incidentally, is kennelled very close to the small village of Faugheen. (Spot the deliberate error in the opening paragraph).

Walter Connors is a veterinary surgeon synonymous with the bloodstock industry in the Waterford and Cork area and is a keen investor in young pointers. Over the years he has established good partnerships with (mainly) Liam Burke and Pat Doyle and has produced many four and five-year-old maiden winners that generally immediately move to a larger stable. What is notable about his runners is that they are, initially, mostly bought privately – many from France – and Connors then also has a hotline to Willie Mullins who will invariably buy his French-bred, Pat Doyle-trained winners for either Rich Ricci or Gigginstown Stud. If handled by Liam Burke they are likely to join a top UK stable such as Nicholls or Pipe where Burke has established good connections over the years.

In reviewing the subsequent track record of seventeen maiden winners owned by Connors from 2008 to 2015 it is surprising to note that there has not been a very significant level of success. However, horses such as Saint Roque (140-rated hurdler/chaser for Paul Nicholls), Long Wave (four-time winner for Charlie Longsdon), Vedettariat (dual winner for Willie Mullins) and Au Quart De Tour (who has won a bumper for Mullins in January 2015 but is somewhat enigmatic) have delivered some success as one might expect but have not hit the Grade 1 heights that may have been anticipated. Two current Mullins stablemates from 2014/15, namely Nambour (2 wins from 3 runs) and Bacardys (won only bumper start), may improve the overall strike-rate and quality but relative disappointments such as Tigerocracy (Charles Byrnes), Quick De Montot (Charles Egerton), Linos (James Ewart), Vinalhaven, Amber Gambler and Bidasse tempers over-exuberance just a little.

Young Turk is a typical example of Connors’ modus operandum in that he was privately sourced in France – the dam who ran without success is a half-sister to a listed hurdle and chase winner – and is likely to have already have been moved on to new quarters as there is no record of sale at public auction. My money is on Willie Mullins and Gigginstown Stud who have the similarly Poliglote-sired and future Gold Cup winner Don Poli already on their books.

There is no denying that Young Turk was impressive here and posted a very good time. He is held in very high regard by Pat Doyle who continues to share the training responsibilities of the young Gigginstown pointers with Gordon Elliott. Young Turk certainly is in the bracket of “could be anything”.

 

4yo maiden (Division II): 

Clondaw Fonz 4,g Court Cave (Michael Goff) (R89)

The breeder who picked up Clondaw Fonz’s dam (related to two nice French winners) for just €750 in 2007 promptly sent her to Stowaway in 2009 and 2010 and she produced a 100-rated 2m7f hurdle winner for Philip Hobbs and a point winner now with Rose Dobbin-Smuggler’s Stash is well on his way to being very nicely handicapped (“He’s a cracking jumper that would stay galloping all day”). Clondaw Fonz is the result of a Court Cave cover in 2010 and was recently sold to Alan King for £40,000 following a win in division two of this maiden.

Continuing the purple patch of his trainer Michael Goff, the handler was elated afterwards and said: “He wasn’t right last season when he ran much like a lot of ours.  He loved conditions out there and he stays all day”. He won in dreadful conditions and this should be borne in mind when assessing his chances in races under Rules.

This win reinforced Goff’s success with sons of Court Cave and was another feather in the cap of the Clondaw operation.

Between 2008 and 2012 all 9 winners of this race tasted success on the racecourse, the best of them being mare Baby Shine, a wonderful servant for Lucy Wadham; the passage of time has demonstrated how remarkable it was for a mare to win her maiden against the geldings. The 2013 winner, Lock Towers, has been second in a handicap hurdle off 114 and whereas last year’s winner Double Captain is possibly very well handicapped for Eoin Doyle it is a concern that he disappointed in two winners’ events before going inside the rails. However, he has a nice fourth in a Roscommon bumper last July that promised and I would be fairly certain that he needs good ground to be seen at his best.

I think Clondaw Fonz will be up to winning for Alan King and history suggests he will attain a rating of 110-120 in time.

 

5yo maiden:

Motion To Strike 5,g Beneficial (William Codd) F (R88) 

Motion To Strike was possibly a fortuitous winner here as his main rival crumpled at the last fence, but he has already changed hands for £32,000 at the Cheltenham December Sale. It remains unclear who will train him in the UK. He had fallen on his first start four weeks earlier and his unraced Imperial Ballet dam is well-related to a 2m7f winning Paul Nolan inmate and a dual-purpose gelding that won 8 times for Tom Tate. The second dam and her full brother were prolific winners for Ferdy Murphy.

He was a belated first winner of the season for Wexford-based William Codd whose horses had been running in to form without winning: Codd has trained 49 winners from 351 starters (14%) since the 2007/08 season. Motion To Strike cost Codd €23,000 as a three-year-old and he usually pays for quality, commercial sires.

Motion To Strike was successful in a maiden won in the past by nice track winners such as Jimwillfixit (5 wins), Bach To Whiting Bay (2) and Gold Patrol (3) but it is Codd’s recent record with sold-on maiden winners that is eye-catching: he got £220,000 from Dan Skelton for last April’s winner Born Survivor (won a bumper on its only start) and £300,000 from Roger Brookhouse for the April-14 winner Alisier D’Irlande who has a maiden hurdle to his credit for Henry de Bromhead following an unsuccessful two-race stint with Philip Hobbs. Two other maiden winners (For Instance and Skylander) have been winners for Jonjo O’Neill and David Pipe respectively so his record in recent years is impeccable. 

 

29 November 2015: Ballindenisk, Co. Cork (soft-heavy)

4yo maiden: 

Piri Massini 4,g Pierre (Ashleigh Murphy) P (R88) 

If one threw a random stone in County Wexford chances are you would strike a point-to-point handler such is the proliferation of the “yellow bellies” in the industry down there in the south-east. Ashleigh and Michael Murphy hail from Redbridge Stables and they are predominantly a seller of untried store horses but have been training pointers since autumn 2007.

A 7% strike-rate tells its own story and from 14 winners there’s really only a handful that have been of much account under Rules. Two horses stand out in Kris Cross – a first time Lingstown 4yo winner in 2011 – who has won five for Lucinda Russell and the 4yo winning mare, Lifeboat Mona, who scored in 2014, joined Paul Nicholls and has won two bumpers and a maiden hurdle. In fairness they have had just five 4yo winners in all and the above-mentioned were the most recent victors – both winning bumpers first-time-out – at 6/1 and 11/4 so that might be worth noting as it may suggest an improvement in quality although based on such a small sample that is mere conjecture.

Piri Massini had pulled up in his first start in October and was a surprise winner here. He has a pedigree that is pretty bare back to the third dam. Pierre is now a workaday 21yo stallion producing mostly modest handicappers so it is a little surprising that the Murphy’s fetched a generous-looking £36,000 at Cheltenham in December. He won his maiden in very wintry conditions and perhaps is a stayer in the making as any success close-up on his pedigree is from the point-to-point field. His buyer, Roundhill Bloodstock, is an unknown entity to me so it’s a question of “wait and see” to find out his new home. 

 

5yo+ maiden: 

It Came To Pass 5,g Brian Boru (Jim Culloty) P- (R91)

This winner is closely related to Gold Cup winner Lord Windermere for the same connections and it’s with a degree of frustration that I relay he has already scored under Rules as he collected the maiden hunter chase run annually at Limerick over Christmas starting at 5/2.

Details on future plans for this horse are very sketchy and I suspect it has a lot to do with a boycott of the racing press over a contretemps between the enigmatic trainer and Davy Russell last year.

 

6 December 2015: Lisronagh, Co. Tipperary (heavy)

4yo maiden: 

Minella Beau 4,g King’s Theatre (Colin Bowe) 3 (R90)

For those not in the know the Minella Hotel is in Clonmel in south Tipperary and its owner, John Nallen, is a big supporter of point-to-point racing. Moreover, you may recall that he recently credited himself with launching Joseph O’Brien on the road to stardom following the victory of his 5yo Minella For Me at Rockfield on 1st November. The Racing Post index of horses now lists 114 horses with the suffix “Minella” and I suspect there are more named horses than rooms in the hotel to fit them all. It’s tiresome but the bad news is that it’s unlikely to change anytime soon. As we’ve had “Minella For Beef” and “Minella For Steak” it’s only a matter of time before we have the full beef steak and kidney pie!

Minella Beau shares the same sire as Minella For Me and also cost Nallen a tidy €30,000 as a foal. However, he is one to definitely get excited about.

He has a pedigree that shouts from the rooftops as his half-brother Chatterbox won three hurdles for Nicky Henderson and in a brutally short career also managed to finish runner-up in a Gerry Feilden and fourth in the 2013 Neptune. His French-bred dam is a 2m3f chase winner and she is a half-sister to two outstanding, prolific-winning staying chasers in My Will – good enough to contest two Gold Cups for the Stewart Family and Paul Nicholls – and Unioniste, John Hales’ great servant who competed in the RSA and Grand National.

Minella Beau paid a handsome compliment to his Boulta conqueror Robin Roe in scoring here in determined fashion on very heavy ground and he was reported as being a “backward type” post-race by his handler. This race produced 2015 Midlands National winner Goonyella in 2011 and four other winners since so it would be no surprise to see Minella Beau develop into a formidable chaser in time. He was bought for £100,000 to race in the UK but has no registered trainer as yet.

I’m not sure if it’s pure coincidence that a horse named “Beau” became the first winner trained by Colin Bowe for John Nallen but it is certainly a new string to his bow and I bow my head to him!

 

5yo maiden: 

Makeapoint 5,g Publisher (Vincent Devereaux) P (R88)

Another point winner, another handler based in County Wexford.

The pedigree page does not make for exciting reading but the talentless dam is a half-sister to 2000 Gold Cup winner Looks Like Trouble. So far, she has only been trouble and it’s hard to enthuse over Makeapoint who failed to sell at Cheltenham a week later. Google research on the stallion “Publisher” merely brought me to soft-porn author Harold Robbins and I suspect this is one of those imports found leaning over a stable door in Montana, was bought for $10,000 and shipped back to a farm in Ireland with delusions of grandeur. (Note: he has sired a few jumps’ winners but facts about him are scarce.)

The quality of 5yo maidens can taper off as the end of the year approaches and past winners have been no great shakes with only three from seven qualifiers managing to win inside the rails and all three were trained in England subsequently.

 

6 December 2015: Tattersalls Farm, Co. Meath (heavy)

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4yo maiden: 

Back Door Johnny 4,g Westerner (Paul Nolan) 3-5 (R87)

Paul Nolan, like many similar Irish trainers, has been struggling to fill his boxes in recent years and it’s some time now since the heady days of Accordion Etoile in 2004 and more recently, Joncol, who threatened to be a Gold Cup horse.

Luck was on his side here as three horses vying for victory all fell at the final fence and he coasted home for a bloodless win. He was staying on at the finish but the carnage at the last ensured his winning rating was modest.

Potential staying chaser is writ large on his flanks as his grandmother is related to two of the finest of the species in McGeorge and Chief Dan George who won 24 races between them. He is a fourth foal and it may be worth keeping an eye on his 2010 Scorpion half-brother, Super Scorpion,  who joined Debra Hamer in the UK following a point victory and is promising to be useful after three decent hurdle outings.

Historically this is another good contest and of the last 6 winners, 5 have won including two that joined Willie Mullins and last year’s winner, Yorkhill, looks to be top drawer. There is a definite question mark hanging over this winner and I will return to the three last-fence fallers in time to extract perhaps more promising talent.

 

5yo maiden: 

Powerful Symbol 5,g Robin Des Champs (P Cashman) F3- (R91)

Robin Des Champs needs no introduction and Paul Cashman – owner of Glenview & Rathbarry Studs where Robin Des Champs stands since he was imported from France in 2009 – would appear to be making a very authoritative remark when stating that this is the best Robin Des Champs he has handled given his privileged position to view the stallion’s progeny. Cashman has always trained pointers and has a very respectable strike-rate of 24% with all his runners since 2007 although he had two barren seasons in 2013 and 2014.

Two elements give rise to a sense of caution with Powerful Symbol: firstly, Cashman has never previously trained a winning Robin Des Champs pointer so one must interpret “he is the nicest RDC I have had to date” with some care and, secondly, Cashman’s record from training 10 previous 5yo maiden winners is decidedly patchy with a Drinmore Chase winner, Jessies Dream, being by far the best and a fairly average bunch to run under Rules with that exception. Perhaps I am slightly overdoing this latter point as another five won under rules but from such a potentially good source it is slightly concerning.

Powerful Symbol was an impressive front-running victor by 20 lengths and is related to four winners who won a couple of bumpers and performed to an average mark of 120. There was an element of hype surrounding this horse in the aftermath of his victory and I am a little surprised that agent Peter Doyle’s bid secured him for £60,000. I’m sure he’ll win races for his new connections.

* * * * * * * *

The autumn season of 2015 ended on Sunday, 13 December and it was interesting that all five maidens run for four and five-year-old geldings were won by horses with previous experience. On the other hand, with just two fixtures there were two younger mares’ maidens run and both featured previously-unraced winners. This latter result is simply down to the relative dearth of 4yo only mares’ maidens run throughout the autumn. The possible explanation as to why there were no unraced four or five-year-old winners has to do with the date being too late for the final sale of the year - Tattersalls December Sale - as all promising unraced maidens will have made their debuts by now.

The looming birthdays for all on the upcoming January 1st also means that all measures will have been taken to ensure the better horses have won by New Year’s Eve in any particular year. Interestingly, the end of the year usually offers one last chance in the last chance saloon by virtue of a traditional late- December fixture at Dromahane but it was lost to the monsoon weather this year.

 

13 December 2015: Boulta, Co. Cork (heavy)

4yo geldings maiden: 

Clondaw Westie 4,g Westerner (Michael Goff) 4-3F (R88) 

Westie joined Bisto, Cracker and Fonz to give Michael Goff an impressive four-timer of 4yo maiden winners in just 23 days. An investment in the four geldings of €62,500 has yielded a return to date of £182,000 before a sale for Clondaw Westie has been confirmed. Quadrupling one’s investment – allowing for sterling exchange rates – is not a bad day’s work and clearly indicates why this side of the business is so popular with handlers and why so many turn their hands to both training and investing in the point-to-point business now that it is virtually impossible to turn a profit training under Rules without the custody and control of between 30-40 paying guests.

Clondaw Westie had fallen when travelling well in the maiden won by a horse I rate highly, Robin Roe, and on this occasion appeared to jump very well. He’s most likely to turn up in the UK in future and it will be no waste of one’s time to read my previous lines on Goff to see which trainers may rate this gelding. The dam may not have won but she was trained by Charles Byrnes who must have seen something in her and she was a half-sister to a Clonmel bumper winner who met with an early demise that was owned by JP McManus.

Finally, a version of this race has been run at different venues since 2012 and it has produced some very nice winners in Golantilla – a one time “talking horse” who nonetheless has won three races; Robert Tyner’s dual-scorer Sir Abbot; and, from a division last season, Mouse Morris’s Just Cause is a useful winning hurdler and the unlucky Hawkhurst should already have won for Paul Nicholls.

 

5yo maiden: 

Mind Boggler 5,g Oscar (M P Collins) P4/F (R87)

Mind Boggler was something of a surprise winner here coming off three modest efforts although it seems the key to him – having been found! – is goodish ground and coming from off the pace. He is definitely of interest in that his part-owner is the wife of David Magnier – brother of John – and he has overall responsibility for the Coolmore National Hunt operation so one assumes that he will have a fairly reliable guide before he gets involved in ownership of horses sired by his own stallions; in this case, Oscar.

It’s a pedigree that catches the eye as a Presenting half-brother made €38,000 as a 3yo for the O’Neill/McManus axis – as it transpires, he was useless – but the flat-winning dam (won off 57 and also placed over hurdles) is a half-sister to Turtleback, a very good juvenile hurdler for Eddie O’Grady who ran sixth in 2002 Triumph Hurdle and who, in turn, is out of a half-sister to the 1986 Triumph winner Solar Cloud (David Nicholson). Intriguingly, for me at any rate, the fourth dam is the 1973 Buckpasser mare, Passing Fancy, who at one time was one of the famous Keeneland buys for Vincent O’Brien and Robert Sangster on their annual spending spree.

Mind Boggler’s handler, Matt Collins, has never previously trained a 5yo maiden winner – his best horse to date from just 8 winners in 7 years is the Paul Henderson horse, Talk Of The South, who is either hopeless or being superbly campaigned for a mark – and it is more than likely he will sell this one to race in the UK.

Somewhat similarly to the earlier 4yo maiden this race has thrown up nice recent winners in listed bumper winner Bigbadjohn (2014), Rebecca Curtis’s six-time winner Bob Ford and a couple of modest winning handicappers.

 

13 December 2015: Borris House, Co. Carlow (soft)

4yo geldings maiden (Div I): 

Farm The Rock 4,g Yeats (Colin Bowe) 2-63 (R88) 

Similar to Michael Goff, Farm The Rock gave Colin Bowe his fourth 4yo maiden winner of the season and his ninth in all to give him joint leading handler title – along with David Christie who concentrates on older “open” horses – before the Christmas break. As he also trained three winning mares I am particularly mindful of how he successfully campaigned both the mares Askanna and Our Victoria some years ago to suggest he has a way with the ladies. In fact, one of those mares – the very first horse on my “dark horses” list – was second this week in the UK at 33/1 and I landed some nice place wagers.

Farm The Rock took four runs to shed his maiden tag and this will tell against him in the sales ring I suspect. I love his sire and if any stallion is going to impart toughness it is surely going to be four-time Ascot Gold Cup winner Yeats. His first runners are now 5yo’s of 2016 and it was almost inevitable that he would transfer from flat to National Hunt within Coolmore. Exactly one-third of his 48 jumpers have won 22 races under Rules to date although one would like him to have a horse rated higher than 132 even if it’s very early days yet.

Of his previous three winners in 4yo maidens the mare Shattered Love is unraced for Gigginstown, the £150,000 Paul Nicholls’ Red Hanrahan has been really disappointing in two outings while Willie Mullins has the as yet unraced Inspired Poet, a £155,000 acquisition. Is there already just a slight cause for concern or are we simply seeing his first flat-bred crops proving unsuitable candidates for the jumping game? It will be fascinating to watch developments.

I read of one commentator opining that Farm The Rock would be a “fun type” under Rules and this, in my opinion, is damning with faint praise although he may be right and Cartmel handicap hurdles may beckon.

 

4yo geldings maiden (Div I): 

Log On g,4 Scorpion (Liam Kenny) 544-4 (81) 

A very poor rating indeed for a 4yo maiden winner and the lowest I have seen in many a long day. The reason for the modest award was the fact that a horse was bounding clear only to fall at the last and, consequently, Log On received a rating 10lbs less than the unlucky faller. A horse that one assumes would be in the McManus ownership if he was an attractive looker as “JP” has raced many of the family successfully. Kenny campaigns many older pointers and I expect that they will run this horse initially in winners’ events to see if they can improve his rating and consequently his marketability.

 

5yo maiden: 

Accord g,Arcadio (Jonathan Sweeney) F2- (R89)

On the face of it buying a filly who is a half-sister to Cheveley Park winners and closely related to French Derby second Nowhere To Exit for just £7,000 – she disappointed with James Fanshawe – should be good business and at least a point winner will add some gloss to the page on account of her second foal’s victory here. Accord’s owner/breeder Jim Morrison has held a private trainer’s licence in the past with a degree of success but he has now handed the responsibility of this gelding over to Jonathan Sweeney from Co. Cork.

Sweeney has trained 9 point winners in recent times with a very respectable strike-rate of 37.5% - a remarkable 53% in the last three seasons - and seven of the nine have been fillies. All these fillies have been track material and one of them, Barnahash Rose, gave Sweeney his first winner under Rules in 2014. His only previous gelding to score was the 5yo April Dusk who is now performing very well for Warren Greatrex (dual scorer rated 125). This record augurs very well for the chances of Accord. Sweeney has some very interesting horses poised to score for him under Rules at present including the well-handicapped Ballybrowney Ella.

After this likeable win his handler stated: “I only got him during the summer and he is a lovely horse who is improving all the time and will improve further for better ground” He also suggested he would run him in a bumper over Christmas and his pedigree certainly suggests this is feasible although this plan never materialised. It may be that he is sales bound or being sold privately but even if he remains with Sweeney he warrants the closest attention.

This is what I wrote about the sire, Arcadio, responsible for Loughrea 4yo maiden winner Ryalex in October:

His sire is still an unknown quantity – first 4yo runners in 2013 – but he is getting some good horses – The Game Changer and Walk To Freedom among his best – and it is very encouraging to note that the three horses who won maiden point-to-points and subsequently ran on the track have all won. They are Orby’s Man (won maiden hurdle for C Longsdon), Ground Invasion (won 2 bumpers for Stuart Crawford) and Crimson Ark – placed in 2 bumpers before winning a hurdle for Emma Lavelle from his only 3 starts.

All in all, I think we have something fairly serious to play with here.

****

David Skelly is a chartered accountant based in Tipperary who has a private accountancy practice that specialises in the bloodstock industry. He has been a keen racegoer and pointing enthusiast for many years and ran the very successful Jack Of Trumps Racing Club for eight years. He can be contacted at dskelly@davidskelly.ie.
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