Weekly reports on key point-to-point events in Ireland, by Seattle Dancer: following top horses and trainers, and checking up on major fixtures and courses.

Irish Point Notes: THAT point-to-point

The Aintree Grand National witnessed a remarkable result this year if you are a fan of walking in muddy fields with the rain pelting down, otherwise known as point-to-pointing, writes David Skelly. I must admit I am partial to that particular day out and I love to scamper out into the countryside to watch the horses jumping at full stretch. An occupational hazard is keeping a weather eye out for loose horses galloping gaily on without their original riders.

The headlines that delved a little deeper into this year’s National result told us that for the second year in a row Lucinda Russell’s winner had learnt his tradecraft in the Irish point-to-point nursery scene and One For Arthur’s victory followed that of Rule The World in 2016. For the record, since 2000 a total of three other Irish point-to-point graduates have collected the winners’ garland and these were Bindaree (2002), Monty’s Pass (2003) and Silver Birch in 2007 for the relatively unknown Gordon Elliott who continues to train the odd winner..

The disclosure that One For Arthur had won his four-year-old maiden at Lingstown in November 2013 was enhanced by the fact that he beat Saturday’s National favourite, Blaklion, by eight lengths in that maiden and repeated the winning distance in the “world’s favourite steeplechase” with Blaklion finishing fourth, eight-and-three-quarter lengths behind One For Arthur. Blaklion was then trained by Colin McKeever: he won his, now, five-year-old maiden a couple of months later before joining Nigel Twiston-Davies in a private deal. One For Arthur – probably forgiven the fact it took him five attempts to win his maiden on account of his sire, Milan – left Liam Kenny’s Enniscorthy base and cost the Two Golf Widows £60,000 before heading for Russell’s Scottish base. It seems an expensive gesture on behalf of the male widowers to placate two unhappy spouses but no doubt they are patrons of an all-male club!

The part of my brain that occasionally sees a bottle as half-empty immediately prompted the questions: what finished second in that fateful Lingstown maiden splitting these two top chasers and how has his career prospered since?

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The answer to the first question is: The Wexfordian.

It’s fair to say that this race did not especially catch the eye of the race readers back then with the first three home rated 86, 83 and a relatively lowly 78. Today, an impressive winning four-year-old will be rated in the low nineties and a small degree of rating inflation has crept into being, probably in direct proportion to the rising prices achieved for winning point-to-point graduates at public auction. Whether or not the increase in ratings is justified remains moot.

The Wexfordian was then trained by Liz Doyle in, where else, but Wexford and never ran in a point-to-point again. He was despatched to the Brightwells Cheltenham Sale the following month and joined Martin Keighley having been secured by the agent, Gerry Hogan, for a bid of £45,000 which was a decent return for the owner-breeder of this Shantou gelding.

You pays your money and you takes your chances in this game and The Wexfordian has run fourteen times for Keighley and, whilst running respectably, has yet to get his head in front whilst wearing an assortment of head gear. He has finished second on four occasions, including his last three starts in handicaps over hurdles and fences, his last start being in a seller, and his owners probably hate Wexford people at this stage.

In an interesting postscript I picked up the following from Keighley’s blog after The Wexfordian last ran on Tuesday, 11 April: “Sadly, The Wexfordian yesterday failed to frank the form of his debut Irish point to point (Nov 2013) with Saturday’s Grand National winner One For Arthur, who won that day, and Grand National fourth Blaklion, who finished behind him in 3rd, when only managing to finish 2nd in his Selling Hurdle at Exeter yesterday! He’s had his problems and hasn’t been the easiest to train but has been pretty frustrating. He was claimed yesterday so we wish them luck with him.”

And so say all of us!

David Skelly is a chartered accountant and Ballydoyle/Coolmore graduate who now dispenses pearls of wisdom to private bloodstock clients. Likes to look beyond the headline and the obvious to offer insights to professionals and punters alike. David can be contacted at dskelly@davidskelly.ie or via twitter @djskelly1

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.

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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)

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.

More “Pointers” for the New Year

Following on from David Skelly's first review of the Irish pointing season here, comes this towering effort sure to be packed to the gunwales with future winners. Read, and keep note!


1 November 2015: Rockfield, Co. Roscommon (yielding)

4yo maiden: 

Monbeg Aquadude 4,g Flemensfirth (D Doyle) unraced (R92)

There was a view that the ground was testing here and it can be a track that favours stamina, perhaps signified by the win of subsequent 4m Eider Chase winner Portrait King in this maiden in 2009. More recently, it’s been won by Jim Dreaper’s Venitien De Mai (2013) who also gives the impression he needs an extreme distance and, already, last year’s winner, American (Robert Tyner), is being spoken of by Harry Fry as a three-mile chaser following a novices’ hurdle victory at Ascot last November.

This year’s winner Monbeg Aquadude already has the hallmarks of a stayer as, having mostly made all, he reclaimed victory on the line having been outjumped by River Wylde at the last fence. River Wylde will feature in a later article representing non-winning “dark horses” for the autumn season.

Monbeg Aquadude has a very nice staying and jumping pedigree tracing back to a Jimmy Mangan owned and trained point and bumper winner and there are lots of good hurdling and jumping winners close up on the page including She’s Our Native who won six handicaps for Evan Williams, who took over the mare from Philip Hobbs, a feat not lost on the winning trainer!

By a very popular sire and in a race described by perennial champion jockey Derek O’Connor as possible the best 4yo contest run to date in the 2015 autumn season Monbeg Aquadude is now in the care of Michael Scudamore and should win lots of staying races. I’d love to see him get a “sighter” in a 2m bumper or maiden hurdle before we could help ourselves when he tackles 2.5m+ for the first time on soft ground.


5yo maiden:

Minella For Me 5,g King’s Theatre (Joseph O’Brien) unraced (R91)

Where to start with this highly promising winner?

If the name of the handler looks vaguely familiar that’s because it is! A first training success for Aidan’s young son it was surely incongruous that Joseph – “Joey” to the folks on NBC racing coverage – was on duty at the Breeders Cup in Keeneland whilst his first runner between the flags was a generously-priced 5/2.

It also hastened the immediate retirement of successful jockey James “Corky” Carroll who decided to bow out of the game with this, his 200th winner in points.

It represented yet another success for leading point owner John Nallen whose “Minella” horses are very regular visitors to the winners’ enclosure. In fact, his Minella Foru has just landed the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown for J P MacManus as I write. Nallen pays plenty for his three-year-olds and they are always by a top sire and sure to be valuable if and when they win a maiden point. Rather modestly, ahem, Mr Nallen gave credit afterwards to himself for Aidan O’Brien’s early successes and momentum back in the day.

Finally, whereas Nallen is always a seller of his horses (“I can’t afford to keep him now”) I venture very, very few of Joseph’s winners will ever be sold again if he aims to eventually rival Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott at the top of the jumping game. I am quite surprised to note that Minella For Me failed to sell at £68,000 at the Cheltenham November Sale given that his year younger half-brother (Stowaway Magic) joined Nicky Henderson for £100,000 after he won his 4yo maiden last Spring. Minella for Me was a €50,000 3yo purchase by Nallen and he will have been very keen to offload him from the balance sheet. It will be very interesting to see where this “armchair ride” turns up next. Perhaps J P MacManus will step in and allow Joseph to continue to train him.


1 November 2015 Grennan, Co. Kilkenny (good-yielding)

4yo maiden

King Cool 4,g King’s Theatre (Donnchadh Doyle) F7- (R88) 

This is a fixture that I attend regularly but it always seems a low-key, muted affair. King Cool is a half-brother to two nice winners that were rated 123 and 115 at best – they won three and two races respectively for Eddie Harty and Twiston-Davies - and he is out of a flat-bred mare who picked up the stamina influence of her sire, Karinga Bay – responsible for 2015 Gold Cup winner Coneygree - and she was exclusively bred to produce jumpers on her retirement to stud. She was a nine-time winner in modest races and scored on the flat for Bryn Palling before scoring three times over hurdles for Philip Hobbs.

He was subsequently bought for £20,000 at the Ascot December Sales and I suspect Gary Moore has obtained a bargain as there was a slight doubt over the quality of the maiden as both market fancies fell early in the contest. In addition, King Cool’s form coming into Sunday was decidedly average so he was never going to set the sales ring alight.

However there is no denying that his three younger siblings all had ability – an Alflora mare was third in a bumper and hurdle in a curtailed career – and maybe the highfalutin talk of connections after his victory will be borne out: “He was running well before falling on his debut, has plenty of ability and will win a bumper.”


5&6yo maiden:

Stealing Mix 5,g Fair Mix (Donnchadh Doyle) F-P (R88)

Failing to sell a maiden winner at public auction is a disaster for the handler and connections and this fate befell Stealing Mix at Cheltenham in November – not sold at £29,000. Occasionally if there is a genuine underbidder a private sale can be announced afterwards but if connections have been too greedy they will find it hard to move on their horse. At the time of writing it is unclear if he has changed hands.

Stealing Mix is by a fair-to-middling sire in Fair Mix whose main claim to fame is Simonsig. The Doyles picked him up at Doncaster as a 4yo for just £6,500 and such is the fashion in National Hunt breeding at present that very few of the bigger owners or trainers will want anything older than three unless they have proven pointing or racecourse form. He is a fifth foal and the unraced Terimon mare has yet to breed a winner although she is related to some prolific winners herself.

This is one of the most ordinary maidens run in autumn based on past history and I don’t think Stealing Mix will be of major interest to us at any point.


7 November 2015 Maralin, Co. Down (heavy)

4yo maiden:

Big Meadow 4,g Marienbard (Peter Fahey) unraced (R93)

Peter Fahey trained an Indian River half-sister to Big Meadow to win a maiden in 2013 but it is ironic, as will become clear, that she failed to win on the track after she was sold to John O’Shea in the UK for £48,000. I say ironic because up to this point he (Fahey) had previously handled 4 winning pointers and all were prolific winners under Rules including the very good mare Shop Dj (won 6) and Pride Of The Artic (won 6) that he trained himself. Door Boy (won 4 for Howard Johnson) and King Rolfe (2 successes for Tim Vaughan) were two that left his yard after success in maiden points.

So when he was quoted after the victory of Big Meadow as saying “From this time last year we have always thought he was a nice horse and it’s great to win first time out. He is for sale but I would love to be able to keep him,” we can easily assume that he has a horse of some decent calibre on his hands. The race has thrown up 7 winners under Rules from the last 11 runnings (including divisions) and Big Meadow has the best rating of the last dozen winners by some way.

It’s a pedigree replete with quality and the unraced Bob Back dam was a half-sister to some multiple winners trained by Noel Meade and Venetia Williams and the back catalogue reveals such stalwarts as Take The Stand – second in Kicking King’s 2005 Gold Cup and winner of 16 races – and Sheltering who was the leading hunter chaser in Ireland between 1999 and 2003.

Peter Fahey’s loss is Neil King’s gain as Big Meadow was knocked down to the Barbury Castle trainer for £85,000 at Cheltenham in November although there is a slight question mark over the sire, Marienbard, who, in truth, is not getting many winners albeit he has covered fairly limited crops. Big Meadow is by some way the most expensive of his progeny ever sold under the National Hunt sphere. Also, bear in mind that this was really testing ground at Maralin and one can assume “staying chaser” is most likely writ large on this particular can.


5yo maiden:

Boruing Up A Storm 5,g Brian Boru (J P Brennan) 3633- (R89)

This fellow’s grand-dam was an unraced half-sister to the brilliant chaser Maid Of Money – I just love a good jumping mare – and she produced her share of multiple winners including

Wouldn’t You Agree and Hardiman who scored 11 times for the J P Macmanus/Christy Roche combination between 1997 and 2003. Boruing Up A Storm’s bumper-placed dam, by Supreme Leader,  could have been expected to enhance the family’s reputation and although many of her foals with good sires sold well they have been largely disappointing. Brian Boru has long been banished to Wales by Coolmore and it might just be that the least fashionable cover for the mare – who made just €4.500 as a foal – will prove to be her first track winner.

I have already introduced a 5yo maiden winner, Our Brian, trained by Brennan – also by Brian Boru and making his way to a lenient handicap mark over hurdles - and my recommendation for Boruing Up A Storm is to follow him, probably in hunter chases, when the ground is deplorable. His rating of 89 suggests he should be capable of winning on the track like previous winners here Trendelenburg, Buckers Bridge, Shanroe Society, What’s Left and last year’s winner Stiletto.


8 November 2015 Ballinaboola, Co. Wexford (soft-heavy) 

4yo maiden: 

Ballymountain Boy 4,g Mountain High (Colin Bowe) unraced (R88) 

Dunraven Stud in South Wales, run by former coal miner David Brace, is the location of choice for Coolmore’s National Hunt decision-makers when they wish to off-load one of their jumping stallions and horses such as Dr Massini, Vinnie Roe, Bach and Brian Boru have all taken the Rosslare-Fishguard journey to ply their careers in League One having been demoted from the Premiership. The analogy may not be entirely accurate but it is apt.

It was recently announced that Mountain High – a son of Danehill out of Ballymacoll’s brilliant mare Hellenic – will now take this route and it comes as no surprise when you realise that, with his first-crop jumpers now six, his two best performers have been Mountain Tunes (OR 125) who has won a point and two hurdle races and, incidentally, gave Tony McCoy his 4,000th winner in 2013 and Lite Duties (OR 131) who gave Charles Byrnes a hat-trick of handicap hurdle victories in late 2014. From these two examples alone, one can reasonably predict the level of ability being passed on to his stock by Mountain High and a healthy 38% of all his runners have won a race of some description.

This background sets the bar for Ballymountain Boy who was a fortunate winner of this race and there are two “also rans” from the race who have more potential and will appear on my later “dark horses” listing.

He has a page that has become a little disappointing as his unraced grand-dam is closely related to some well-known names such as Observe, Minorettes Girl, Shotgun Willy and Mini Sensation. She only produced one Kayf Tara hurdles winner (6 others failed to win under Rules) but at least Ballymountain Boy’s unraced Bob’s Return mare is improving things as her first two foals – of which Ballymountain Boy is number two – are both threatening to be smart. Her first foal, Big Mike, was second in a point and has been placed three times from four starts for Sarah Humphrey.

As is sometimes the case, the fact that Lady Luck was on his side allowing him to win this maiden may have told against him as he failed to find a new home for £27,000 at the December Cheltenham sale. Connections of Ballymountain Boy will be ruefully noting that the horse he beat into second place on the day has since changed hands for £62,000.

Colin Bowe has produced a host of nice young horses over the years and whereas he was surprised by this victory, believing his charge to be very green beforehand, it augurs well for future improvement to come. I’ll be surprised if Ballymountain Boy doesn’t resurface in a  new UK home shortly.

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5yo maiden:

Park Steel 5,g Craigsteel (Sean Finn) 3 (R87)

This doesn’t look the strongest maiden and for me the interesting aspect is my return to a review of the stallion, Craigsteel, responsible for the winner. Park Steel was beaten into third on his only previous start by Tomngerry who has recently won a bumper for Brian Ellison.

This is what I wrote about him last autumn following a win for one of his four-year-olds Jack Steel who later joined Lucinda Russell for J P MacManus after they acquired him for £33,000-a solid if unspectacular sum.

Jack Steel’s sire Craigsteel’s first NH crop are now 11yo’s and his best runner to date, Cross Kennon (a very good staying hurdler), is from that crop. His stock that win point-to-points generally progress and these include He’s A Delight (Irish bumper and hurdle winner), Boss Croaker (dual handicap hurdle winner), Ballincurrig (progressive handicap chaser with Nick Skelton who had Galway Plate aspirations earlier this year), Truckers Steel (won bumper on debut for Tom George) and the “could be anything” Pulled Mussel, a 20L bumper winner for Robert Tyner on his only start so far under rules-won a maiden hurdle but seriously regressed in three runs after. Donald McCain and Jonjo O’Neill have three winning graduates from last season to race this year-Five For Fifteen (2 poor bumper runs-£30k), Amys Choice (unraced since-moved to Rose Dobbin-£45k) and Rainman (0/6, very disappointing-£40k)and all three are worthy of attention. 

Last year’s main Craigsteel representative was the 4yo maiden winner Jack Steel and he made £33,000 before joining Lucinda Russell. He has been a little disappointing too, taking 7 runs before opening his account with a first run in a handicap chase (R115). Clearly they have their level of ability but do not progress.


Park Steel couldn’t find a buyer for small money as a foal and I suspect a “withdrawn” entry as a 4yo in Goresbridge July sale would be the kiss of death for future sales prospects. It strongly suggests a point maiden win was not expected and his little-known handler Sean Finn (four winners of five races from 95 runners since autumn 2009) seems to have done a capable job with him. However, the spotters and trainers didn’t want him and he was led out unsold for £19,000 at the Cheltenham November Sale. (I’m hoping he has found a home in England but it’s possible he may try to win in Ireland for Dermot Day before trying the sales route again. There have been 9 winners of various divisions of this race between 2010 and 2014. Five sold to the UK and all won. None or those remaining in Ireland ever did!)

He’s no star but although my early inclination was to write Park Steel off, I am keeping an eye on him into the future as I just had a Eureka! moment as I researched the record of Finn’s previous three winners that all were sold to race under Rules: Beneficial Reform has won a hurdle and two chases for James Ewart, Master Jake -  a 7yo winning maiden that ordinarily would be of no interest – has won his only two starts for Dan Skelton and, finally, David Bridgwater has eventually managed to get Vinnieslittle Lamb to win a chase after Finn won a 4yo mares’ maiden with her in 2012. This is a pretty decent 100% record and who’s to say that it shall now not continue with Park Steel provided, of course, he lands in the UK.

Perhaps the following post-race comment will be most significant in unlocking any future profits here: “We bought him privately from his owner and ideally he wants good ground,”

And we know the modest level to expect from the sire.

Postscript: Vinnieslittle Lamb was a mare that I have followed very closely since she won and changed hands in 2012. I have many such records on the fairer sex and if one can anticipate the potential it can be very rewarding. I will write something on this aspect of the pointing game in time.


8 November 2015 Dromahane, Co. Cork (soft) 

4yo maiden: 

Stretchingthetruth 4,g Gold Well (Nick Stokes) unraced (R90) 

This race has thrown up its share of track winners since 2008 with Indevan (W Mullins), Kaki De La Pree (T Symonds) and the ill-fated Sizing Mexico probably being the best of them. It also features possibly one of Willie Mullins’ few point-to-point buying “mistakes” as the 2013 winner, Master Of Verse – who cost £150,000 – has failed to win his first two starts in bumpers as strong favourite.

Nick Stokes trains near Coolmore in Tipperary and from a small string produced some nice winners up to 2012. However, probably as a result of the Irish economic recession he failed to find a single winner for the past three seasons. His best recent graduate was the 2008 Gold Well gelding, Sausalito Sunrise, for whom he paid just €7,000 in 2011 (as a 3yo) and he reaped a handsome profit after he was sold on privately to Philip Hobbs following a victory in his solitary 4yo maiden. Sausalito Sunrise has now won 6 races and is rated 150 and could win a Grand National one day. It is also possible Stokes bought Stretchingthetruth privately as a foal in 2011 and going to the “Well” twice seems to have paid off with victory by the narrowest margin in this maiden from his Beneficial stable companion who sold recently for £68,000.  It will come as no surprise if Stretchingthetruth is also now in Somerset with Hobbs but he is certain to cross the Irish Sea or join the Mullins or Gigginstown bandwagons.


5yo maiden:

Gurteen 5,g Golan (Robert Tyner) unraced (R89)

We know this is a good horse simply because since his victory here he has been placed in a maiden hurdle and scored in a Leopardstown bumper over Christmas.

28Dec15 Leopardstown   ( 16 Hy ,RPR110 )

Gurteen is a horse we have always liked. He is very well bred and he won his point easily. I am not sure what we will do with him now - Robert Tyner, winning trainer.

A son of Golan, Gurteen was also bred by the trainer’s sister-in-law and he’s out of an own-sister to Call Me Dara who provided Tyner with the first of his Paddy Power Chase victories in 2000, so the project is well on course already. As the horse ran in new colours at Christmas it may be that Tyner has worked the oracle in both selling Gurteen and retaining the training responsibilities.


15 November 2015 Corbeagh House, Co. Westmeath (soft-heavy)

4yo maiden:

Carrig Cathal 4,g Fair Mix (Robert Widger) unraced (R87)

It’s a truism that National Hunt breeders require the patience of Job and on many occasions “success” can come too late for an ageing or indeed dead broodmare when her progeny – born many years earlier –are strutting their stuff on the racecourse. Carrig Cathal is a case in point for her breeder Mrs L M Northover. She seems to have acquired the Supreme Leader dam – winner of a Newcastle maiden hurdle in 2000 - for very small money in 2001 before a 2002 half-brother by Oscar proved to be of high class for Nigel Twiston-Davies, winning five times and achieving a career-high chasing mark of 149 with his highlight coming in the Racing Post Chase in 2010. The mare’s first progeny, a 2003 gelding by Alflora, won a bumper for Brendan Powell and J P MacManus then took over ownership and the partnership enjoyed 8 further successes giving the dam of Carrig Cathal every chance of financial success. Unfortunately, the mare proved a grave disappointment thereafter as it has taken a further 7 foals before she has even had another runner but at least it’s been the winning first-time-out pointer Carrig Cathal who is putting some black type back on the page.

Carrig Cathal seemed to benefit from the fall of two upsides last-fence fallers – ironically, both were entirely missed by the video recording – so I have another couple of unexposed 4yo’s for future exposition. The winning connections, headed by ex-trainer Paul Roche, said afterwards: “We always thought we had a bumper horse and his jockey still thinks so. He was very lucky at the third last where he made a bad mistake and did very well to recover. Despite being left in front at the last Jamie (Codd) felt he would have won anyway.” I briefly mentioned his sire, Fair Mix, in the course of Stealing Mix’s 5yo maiden win at Grennan-see above.

This meeting and venue is relatively new so there is little history to go on but Gordon Elliott handled last year’s winner Cogryhill to win a bumper and maiden hurdle and he has plenty of potential. What makes Carrig Cathal of even more interest is that Elliott bought this youngster for £40,000 at the recent Cheltenham December Sale and that vote of confidence will do for me.


5yo maiden:

The Pierre Lark 5,g Pierre (Robert Brabazon) P4- (R86) 

Robert Brabazon, based in Co. Westmeath has won two 4/5yo maidens in recent years and both horses were up to winning on the track including Cloudy Joker from 2013 who has scored in four handicap chases for Donald McCain.

Pierre doesn’t sire many point winners in this age group either but those who subsequently change hands and move to the UK are usually capable of modest handicap success. The only exception to this is the useful five-time scorer Ballyalton for Ian Williams.

The Pierre Lark is related to some very nice horses including half-brother Washington Lad who was third in the Galway Plate in 2009 and it seems a sturdy chasing family even if the dam’s ability to throw winners seems to have faded in recent times. All in all, one is looking for this horse to change hands and be up to handicap chase success in the UK probably on an initial mark of 100. If he remains with Brabazon I might be only interested in maiden hunter chases over here.


21 November 2015 Kirkistown, Co. Meath (soft)

4yo maiden:

Clondaw Bisto 4,g September Storm (Michael Goff) unraced (R88)

Calling a poor, unfortunate horse “Bisto” would not be my idea of a moniker to enthuse over but I’ve always been a critic of poorly or misspelled racehorse names. If I tell you that connections campaigned a horse named Different Gravey in 2014 I couldn’t encapsulate my point in any clearer fashion! Mind you, the misspelling hasn’t stopped Different Gravey winning three times from just four starts for Nicky Henderson and he delivered a £140,000 dividend for connections having cost them just €7,500 as a foal so who’s having the last laugh?

This fellow cost just €2,500 as a 3yo and delivered a nice profit to connections following a sale to Suzy Smith for £22,000 at the Cheltenham December Sale. He has quite a poor pedigree with an 83-rated chase winner being the only winner of note close-up on his page and his sire has only ever had 5 point winners including the “sleeper” Benarty Hill I introduced in my previous report from September. A 6yo mare Mia’s Storm has been second in her only start in a bumper for Alan King – cost an expensive looking £40,000 – and I am astounded to see that his only previous 4yo winner, Grey Storm, cost Rose Dobbin a massive £100,000 last May and has pulled up in its only start to date for her. September Storm has only had 5 winners (of 6 races) from 23 runners under Rules to date yet his highest-rated runner is a maiden, the previously mentioned Mia’s Storm. His winners have included two bumper winners so that might be Clondaw Bisto’s best chance for success in the UK perhaps followed by low-grade handicap hurdle campaigning.

This was the start of a purple patch for Wexford handler Michael Goff who has landed four 4yo maidens in the space of just 23 days. A former pre-trainer delivering young horses to handlers such as Colin Bowe, Goff has been training pointers since autumn 2013 and what a job he has been doing. A strike-rate of 20% is respectable but it is prowess at training 4yo’s that is very impressive. Significantly he also has a great eye for a cheap horse and regularly achieves exponential return on investment.

His current purple spell is not a fluke as it was repeated in April 2014 when he trained three consecutive 4yo winners. Suffice to say anything hailing from his base at Clondaw is worthy of the highest respect on the track.

Three final points in favour of this winner: firstly, Suzy Smith has already bought from this source and Clondaw Cian has already won twice (bumper and hurdle) from four starts for her and, secondly, after his victory here connections pointed to the fact that Clondaw Bisto had previously (last spring) worked well at home with both Clondaw Cian and Bun Doran, the latter having also won a bumper for Tom George. Finally, there is the small matter of the 2010 renewal of this maiden won by Ballynagour and Annacotty’s win in 2012: both of these maiden winners have since tasted success at Cheltenham.


5yo maiden:

Lorenzo 5,g Flemensfirth (S Crawford) unraced (R88)

It’s a little curious that no winner of this maiden since 2010 has raced in the UK but, nonetheless, three from five have won in Ireland and Stuart Crawford has been responsible for four of the six winners – including the 2015 victor Lorenzo – and two of Crawford’s winners (from three to run) have been Call Box (landed a winners of one, chase and three handicap hurdles) and last year’s winner General Principle who was bought by Gigginstown and ran 11th in the Cheltenham bumper following a winning debut for Gordon Elliott in a Punchestown bumper in February.

Lorenzo is a half-brother to a modest dual handicap hurdle winner and a couple of winning pointers and his dam was trained by David Elsworth to win on the flat (R68) although an immediate sister won five staying flat races and five hurdles/ chases. I’m not sure why the Perugino dam has been bred exclusively to National Hunt stallions but Flemensfirth gives this horse a decent shout. He was led out unsold at £78,000 at Cheltenham-December so it’s as yet unclear if he has changed hands.

“He jumped for fun, enjoyed it in front and showed a nice turn of foot when challenged. He has an instant gear and never seemed under pressure. He could go for a bumper but I’d be surprised if I was able to hold on to him.” Time will tell.


22 November 2015 Boulta, West Waterford (yielding-soft)

4yo maiden (Division I):

Crank Em Up 4,g Royal Anthem (Colin Motherway) unraced (R88)

Crank Em Up’s dam is from a nice family and is an unraced Old Vic half-sister to five winners out of a winner who was well-related. She’s been a little slow to produce the goods herself and Crank Em Up is her fourth foal and the first to display decent ability. He is the first pointing winner in the calendar year 2015 for his sire Royal Anthem and represents his fourth year of 4yo runners. He’s been a reasonable success as an imported NH stallion from Kentucky and of his 10 best progeny to race over jumps seven have come from Irish-covered mares and all bar one were either first or second in maiden points, the best to date being The Grey Taylor (won three for Brian Ellison R140) and Princeton Royale (won three for Neil King R138).

Colin Motherway trained and rode this winner patiently and he subsequently fetched £62,000 to the bid from David Dennis Racing. Motherway’s only previous 4yo winner was Danandy in 2011 and he’s won 5 races for Philip Hobbs. The best of other winners he’s trained and sold on are Lord Alfie (win two handicap chases for Liz Doyle) and Ballinahow Star, a three-time winner. His biggest payday was selling his Westerner 5yo maiden 2014 winner Canuwest to Nicky Henderson for £75,000 but he has yet to appear on the track. In typical post-race sales enthusiasm Motherway suggested that Crank Em Up was up to winning a bumper.


4yo maiden (Division II): 

Robin Roe 4,g Robin Des Champs (Timmy Hyde) 2- (R89)

Timmy Hyde’s Camas Park Stud is the leading consignor and pinhooker of yearlings in Europe and he is also a key member of the Coolmore/Ballydoyle team. Hyde is a former jumps jockey who is associated with Anne, Duchess of Westminster’s, “new Arkle”, Kinloch Brae, who fell three from home when favourite for the 1970 Gold Cup and is remembered in a chase at Thurles Racecourse annually.

He has always trained a few point-to-pointers and, at one time, was a strong supporter of his trainer son-in-law Charlie Swan – of Istabraq fame -before Swan retired from the training ranks. Hyde is usually prepared to buy a pedigree with an outstanding sire and will be looking for a return well into six figures when he “clicks” in a maiden with the likes of On Raglan Road and Adam Du Breteau. I note that his Generous 5yo winner from last April, The Tailor Quigley, has yet to be named with a new trainer.

Robin Des Champs (Dir Des Champs, Vautour, Quevega) needs no introduction – suffers from a degree of sub-fertility – and Robin Roe was out of a very useful daughter of a Flemensfirth mare who won a bumper, chase and was placed in three maiden hurdles when trained by Tim Doyle in a short career. Hyde paid €52,000 for him as a 3yo and he was fulfilling the promise of a second placing on his pointing bow last March behind a horse that was second recently in a bumper at the Leopardstown Christmas meeting.

Robin Roe won what looked a very competitive maiden with strongly-fancied horses representing Colin Bowe (third here and sold for £100,000 subsequently after he won his follow-up maiden) and Sam Curling (€54,000 French-bred purchase) but was withdrawn from the Cheltenham December sale. J.P. MacManus will clearly have first refusal on this horse (and indeed The Tailor Quigley) so following them to their new homes will be enlightening.


5&6yo maiden:

Newtown Lad 5,g Craigsteel (Kieran Roche) 6P- (R91)

Kieran Roche from Adamstown, Co. Wexford trains a handful of pointers since 2013 and his only previous point winner was Just Likeold Times in December 2013 who is possibly on a very attractive mark today for Paul Nolan.

This maiden has a reputation for quite a low standard of track success and I can trace Clonbanon Lad as the only winner from the last ten runnings, including divides. Newtown Lad was visually impressive – “destroyed the opposition” – but interestingly the market only gave £20,000 for him when sold later to Lucinda Russell. As I’ve mentioned before his sire would be a little “iffy” and his pedigree is quite weak even if his dam won a bumper for Willie Mullins in 1996. Described as “a big chasing type” that might be the essence of the project here in time. 


22 November 2015 Glenbane, Co. Tipperary (yielding)

4yo maiden:

Clondaw Cracker 4,g Court Cave (Michael Goff) unraced (R91)

As mentioned above Michael Goff used to pre-train many of the horses that joined Colin Bowe and this ownership partnership struck gold with a son of Court Cave (Clondaw Court) in April 2012 (cost €8,000) that joined Willie Mullins for £130,000 and has won 4 of his 5 starts. In Goff’s first year training himself in autumn 2013 he extracted more gold from the sire when he sold on a €19,000 purchase to Nicky Henderson for £90,000; Clondaw Banker has won a bumper and handicap hurdle for Henderson.

No surprise then to see Court Cave as the sire of this “Cracker” and €25,000 has turned into a £120,000 dividend when acquired by Roger Brookhouse. Court Cave has now sired 43 point winners since his stock first ran between the flags in 2010 and is a serious stallion.

Clondaw Cracker is out of an unraced Bob Back mare who is related to a seven-time winner considered good enough to run in the Coral Hurdle and RSA Chase in 1995 and 1997 respectively and a two-time chase winner for Paul Nicholls. A delighted Goff said afterwards: ‘Our horses weren’t right last season so we decided to wait with this fellow.  We fancied him here as he had previously won a couple of schooling races so we knew he had ability.’ To add further lustre to the story is the fact that Derek O’Connor informed us afterwards that the runner-up was also very strongly fancied beforehand.

The winner of this maiden invariably ends up in a top English yard and it will be no surprise to see Clondaw Cracker follow in the footsteps of winners such as River Maigue, Sail By The Sea, Moonlight Drive and Throthethatch who’ve all won their share of races.


5yo maiden:

 D’Arcy’s Sound 5,g Kalanisi (Martin Brassil) unraced (R88)

Brassil trained Numbersixvalverde to win the 2006 Grand National and this winner has a real jumper’s pedigree as his dam is a half-sister to Strath Royal who won 20 races for Owen Brennan between 1992 and 1998, the highlight being the 3m1f Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in 1998. He will have been disappointed to see him leave his yard and he was snapped up privately for the Venetia Williams stable for just £31,000, a sure sign of the times as to how your middle-of-the-road Irish trainer is struggling to make ends meet, find new owners and retain promising stock.

If this horse collects a prestigious chase one day he will have been a bargain although he will have history to overcome in that the average standard of winner from this maiden – in direct contrast to the earlier 4yo race – has been quite poor and Ted Walsh’s winner, Salsa Sensation, from last year is the best over the past number of years having only won a Downpatrick maiden hurdle.

Kalanisi is not the most obvious NH point-to-point sire although he has already been responsible for Ballycash on the opening day this season and we are also awaiting the re-appearance of the £120,000 Six Gun Serenade following his win for Ken Parkhill last April. A Nicky Henderson £140,000 purchase, Birch Hill, from the previous season has been disappointing. As the sire of Katchit he will not be entirely responsible if D’Arcy’s Sound doesn’t make it as a healthy 38% of all his jumpers manage to win a race of some description.


22 November 2015 Lingstown, Co. Wexford (good-yielding)

4yo maiden:

A Rated 4,5 Flemensfirth (Liam Kenny) 3- (R92)

I am intrigued to discover if A Rated has been sold because his owner, Partick Redmond, campaigned no less a horse than 2010 Champion Chase winner Big Zeb and once you experience the roller-coaster highs of Cheltenham success one presumes that you would want to repeat it.

However, Mr Redmond and his trainer Liam Kenny are also traders and have profitably sold on winning pointers in the past such as Two Rockers (three-time £80,000 winner for Alan King), One For Arthur (won four for Lucinda Russell) and Amys Choice-yet to be seen again.

The point-to-point pundits have given this horse a decent rating and suffice to say his page is “alive” with positives including winning siblings and half-siblings, very good ring prices – a brother made €155,000 as a 3yo – and a very well-related dam who was picked up by a lucky so-and-so for just £1,700 in 2003 as a maiden mare after an unsuccessful stint in training. The pre-eminent pedigree reference is that the dam is a half-sister to Philip Hobbs’ 2010 Punchestown 3m1f Gold Cup winner, Planet Of Sound.

The same combination won this maiden in 2013 with the subsequent winner One For Arthur – referred to above – and with the style of his front-running success here, the fast time recorded and his cost of €57,000 as an untried 3yo A Rated ticks a lot of boxes and should prove his trainer’s high opinion of him when he goes racing proper.


5yo maiden:

Breezemount 5,g Flemensfirth (Colin Bowe) 22 (R87)

Somewhat similar to the earlier 4yo winner, Breezemount’s dam was cheaply bought and her page improved immeasurably when her Trempolino half-brother won the 2002 3m5f “Whitbread” for Martin Pipe. The dam has been reasonably successful to date and has produced a modest bumper winner and a couple of horses placed in bumpers. Up to now the breeder has held on to and raced all the dam’s progeny. The remarkable thing about this page is that it features former Premiership (Reading and Wolves) and Republic of Ireland striker, Kevin Doyle, who is a son of the owner/breeder, Paddy Doyle!

Doyle decided to take the “King’s shilling” on this occasion and following Breezemount’s victory in an average maiden – exactly 50% of the last ten winners have won under Rules including already four-time winner Roadie Joe from 2014 – the horse sold to Tom Malone for £26,000 in December. Malone buys a lot of pointers for Lucinda Russell but, as yet, there is no new trainer listed.

Paddy Doyle bred Holywell, the dual Jonjo O’Neill Cheltenham winner and after this race explained that “Breezemount” is his “Ballydoyle” and “Coolmore” i.e. a highly-thought of home-bred that offered such early hopes that he is named after an august location; in this case his home farm in Adamstown, Co. Wexford. That might be worth remembering!

“Pointers” for the New Year

In Autumn 2014, I flagged 48 maiden point runners worthy of note when they came under rules, writes David Skelly, aka Seattle Dancer.

Up to 8th December 2014, that group had performed as per the below tables.

Outing Wins Runs Return Outlay Profit
First 13 40 55.5 -40 15.5
Second 9 33 37 -33 4
Third 8 27 29.2 -27 2.2
Other 8 39 19.9 -39 -19.1
Total 38 139 141.6 -139 2.6


Looking at UK runners only gives the following summary data:

Outing Wins Runs Return Outlay Profit
First 9 24 46.12 -24 22.12
Second 7 20 29.8 -20 9.8
Third 5 16 15.3 -16 -0.7
Other 7 29 18 -29 -11
Total 28 89 109.22 -89 20.22


Focusing on those to run under rules in Ireland, the figures are less compelling from a P/L perspective despite a solid strike rate.

Outing Wins Runs Return Outlay Profit
First 4 16 9.34 -16 -6.66
Second 2 13 7.25 -13 -5.75
Third 3 11 13.8 -11 2.8
Other 1 10 1.9 -10 -8.1
Total 10 50 32.29 -50 -17.71


Although the sample is small, looking solely at those Irish runners to have represented the big stables of Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott makes interesting - if not conclusive - reading.

Outing Wins Runs Return Outlay Profit
First 3 4 7.94 -4 3.94
Second 2 4 7.25 -4 3.25
Third 2 3 2.81 -3 -0.19
Other 1 2 1.9 -2 -0.1
Total 8 13 19.9 -13 6.9


So much for the past. But what about the future? To work with that we need first to consider the action from this Autumn's pointing scene in Ireland, and below is the first instalment of that, covering September and October between the flags.

Based on recent history, there look sure to be some good winners in this list, so do add them to your notebooks.

[Note, all horses are a year older than noted as of today, January 1st]


26 Sept 2015: Toomebridge, Co. Antrim (soft)

4yo maiden: 

Ballycash 4,g Kalanisi (Colin McKeever) P53- (R87)

The season got off in some style with the ex-champion “wee Anthony” McCoy describing Derek O’Connor’s winning ride on Ballycash in the 4yo maiden being the best he had seen at a point-to-point in 20 years.

This 4yo maiden has set a decent standard over the years and, to date, exactly half the winning geldings have tasted success under rules including this year’s winning handler, Colin McKeever, who won with Sweden (2008) and Bravo Riquet in 2010. However there is one statistical trend that is extremely eye-catching and it is the fact that McKeever has run 7 horses in this maiden over the last 8 years and every one of them won a maiden point before graduating to the track and all tasted success under Rules including the very useful Balnaslow (5th here in 2011) and the undefeated racecourse performer Yorkhill (unseated in 2014). A “blind” following of all McKeever’s 7 graduates would have yielded a 26 point profit for level stakes on a “stop-at-a-winner” basis involving a 20 point outlay. Also, the last three horses he ran in this maiden in 2011, 2012 and 2014 all won their bumpers first time out under Rules.

Ballycash is from a Robert Sangster/Swettenham Stud family that traces back to a Vaguely Noble mare and his dam won a bumper, hurdle and chase for Jessie Harrington in the early noughties. His half-sister won a point (and is maiden hurdle placed) but he will be the first colt to represent the dam on track. His year-younger brother fetched €32,000 at the 2014 Derby sale when catching Frank Berry’s and is yet to run.

Although reportedly unsold for £28,000 at the Tatts-Ireland Cheltenham November Sale  – who took over the bloodstock side of the Brightwells auction house who previously ran this sale – Ballycash is now in the care of Nigel Twiston-Davies and should be capable of success at a modest level. Derek O’Connor reckons this good jumper will be a staying type and I would add that, being by Kalanisi and his pedigree history, he has a chance of having the speed for a bumper but is unlikely to be a star albeit his handler believes he will improve.


5yo maiden:

Benarty Hill 5,g September Storm (Liam Lennon) P5B- (R86) (7FF6 Rules)

I make a brief mention of this 5yo winner of what looks a very modest maiden. He is a seventh foal and his only sibling to run under rules won two low-grade handicap chases for Tim Vaughan in 2012. What’s slightly interesting is the fact that that Winged Love gelding won his two races after coming into form in points and as Benarty Hill is already handicapped on the basis of four summer starts over hurdles he is likely to have a fairly modest rating also. However, for those inclined to such things, a review of his run on bad ground last July in Ballinrobe may offer some slight hope for the future in handicap hurdles. His trainer has saddled similar type point winners to run well subsequently in handicaps and he would be one I would watch for at Down Royal over Christmas (and beyond).

Postscript: Having watched Benarty Hill run a reasonably competitive race in a Down Royal maiden hurdle – his fifth outing in that grade – I would be in no way despondent regarding his future possibilities in handicaps. Perhaps better ground than he encountered here (heavy) will be the key.


27 Sept 2015: Rathcannon, Co. Limerick (good) 

4yo maiden: 

Product Of Love: 4, g Fruits Of Love (John “Shark” Hanlon) 2- (R89)

I always look forward to analysing this maiden ever since it produced horses of the calibre of Ionisphere, The Skyfarmer and, a particular favourite, Run With The Wind, in the past.

Here’s what the “shark” had to say about this year’s winner: “Derek (O’Connor) said he’ll win a bumper wherever you want to go with him on a bit of nice ground. He’s out of a very good mare; Michael Holden used to train her and I’m excited about this horse as he’s one you like waking up to every morning. I thinks he’s a very smart horse and as good a horse as I’ve had for a long time.” He also expressed the hope that he wouldn’t be sold and would stay in his yard.

His dam was a star for a small County Kilkenny trainer 12 years ago and she managed to win hurdles and chases from 2m to 2.5m when the ground was listed as containing “good” so that is probably significant. She was also a full-sister to a gelding who won four hunter chases on good ground.

He appears to have been unsold at the November Cheltenham Sale at £120,000 and one suspects he was only leaving the yard if a, perhaps, too high reserve was achieved. Hanlon has not trained many 4yo maiden-winning pointers in the past and of the 3 I have located the best of them was Viking Splash who won the venerable Gowran Park Tetratema Hunter Chase in 2011. Another, Stowaway Shark, was a “talking horse” from autumn 2013 but he’s only run once under rules when probably disappointing in the 2014 Fairyhouse champion point-to-point bumper.

Hanlon is a trainer who divides opinion and whereas this horse looks the business I would be happier to have seen Product Of Love change hands given what we know about the success of winning Irish pointers when taking the ferry to Britain.


5yo maiden:

Valhalla 5,g Scorpion (Pat Doyle) Unraced (R93)

Pat Doyle and Kentucky-based Roger O’Byrne, brother to Coolmore’s Demi, produced the winning 4yo, Indy Five, last season who fell here at Rathcannon when looking a winner in the younger geldings’ maiden. He subsequently made amends for that blot and sold to ex-jockey David Dennis – based in Worcester – for £70,000 last November. He has yet to appear on the track. The same combination clicked again, this time with a Scorpion 5yo and he was given an impressive rating of 93, by far the best award for the weekend’s winning maidens.

He has a pedigree all about chasing and his unraced King’s Theatre dam is a half-sister to Sir Oj and Granville Island who were decent winning chasers for Noel Meade and Jennie Candlish respectively. Sir Oj, in particular, was a very good Graded chase winner and contested races such as the Grand National and Ryanair Chase. The 1985 Grand National winner, Last Suspect, also appears under the fourth dam.

Terry Warner of Rooster Booster and Detroit City fame gave £60,000 for Valhalla at the Cheltenham November Sale and it is quite risky as the stallion has simply not been delivering the track goods with his winning pointers. There have been plenty of good prices paid for his winning maidens since 2013 – first 4yo’s – and they have, by and large been disappointing featuring such horses as Cliff Lane, Tell Us More, Scorpiancer and De Bene Esse. Derek O’Connor opined that the Scorpion’s “have not been all that well received for whatever reason” but a quick trawl through his winning maidens that subsequently changed hands will immediately tell you why!

Despite Valhalla’s exalted rating there is something yet to prove on the track. If you fancy that Terry Warner’s ownership is a lucky omen make sure you are taking a decent price in his first few starts. The maiden he won has occasionally produced decent winners like De Faoithe’s Dream (5 wins), Abbey Storm (2 wins) and, perhaps, Paul Nicholls placed maiden, The Chuckmeister, from last season. Valhalla has been sent to Colin Tizzard who must be buzzing after Cue Card’s heroics last weekend.

Postscript: Valhalla made a middling debut in an Ascot maiden hurdle on 18th December.


4 Oct 2015: Castletown-Geoghegan, Co. Westmeath (good) 

4yo maiden: 

Misfits 4,g Beneficial (Sean Doyle) 4- (R86) 

Misfits was the lucky winner of this maiden as Aidan Fitzgerald’s Reilly’s Minor fell at the last fence with the race at his mercy. Fitzgerald’s charge did not turn out again and was bought by Warren Greatrex for £48,000 in the Cheltenham November Sale.

Misfits however has plenty going for him and has a decent pedigree that encouraged the Doyles to give €24,000 for him as a 3yo at the Goffs Land Rover sale. He’s a half-brother to a three-time winner for Noel Meade and a friend of mine gave €35,000 for his Sholokhov half-brother foal at Tattersalls recently. Two very good chasers in Risk Of Thunder and The Listener are also close up on the page. I believe it is significant that Lucinda Russell bought Misfits privately after his win and he is likely to add to his reputation in the UK. 

Your first 30 days for just £1

With 8 horses (from 10 winners since 2008) going on from this maiden to score subsequently under Rules it further adds to the appeal of Misfits.


5yo maiden: 

Shanroe Street 5,g (Karl Thornton) 23- (R89)

Hailing from fairly modest quarters Shanroe Street is the first “younger maiden” winner for Thornton since he took over his father’s Co. Dublin operation in 2012. His first significant point winner was the then 6yo, Bearly Legal, who’s won five races under rules for him on the track. Shanroe Street’s dam was a modest hurdle winner for Arthur Moore although she in turn is a half-sister to Shark Hanlon’s very prolific seven-time winner Truckers Delight. By Mustameet, a relatively unknown, privately-owned sire who doesn’t cover many mares, 5yo’s represent his first crop and two from that year, Cliff House and Mustmeetalady, are keeping his name from obscurity.

He was impressive in this maiden and jumped very well, so well that Lucinda Russell decided to give £55,000 for him at the Cheltenham November Sale. As his sire is a grandson of the mighty Mr Prospector one can assume that Shanroe Street will require decent ground to be seen at his best. I liked Thornton’s comments post race: ‘‘He is a really good horse with bags of ability and jumps for fun.”


10 Oct 2015: Toomebridge, Co. Antrim (yielding/soft) 

4yo maiden

Whipcord 4,g Tikkanen (J Cosgrave) 53P- (R87)

This is a rather obscure pedigree with the winner being a half-brother to four point winners in Ireland and the UK. However, like Ballymalin-see below, the horse is linked to another great racing stalwart from the Northern Irish racing scene, Jeremy Maxwell, who stood Whipcord’s sire for a number of years. However, the winning point-to-point dam is a sister to the dam of two good winners in L’Accordioniste – useful 2m hurdler for Twiston-Davies – and Three Chords – a useful handicap chaser – and both were bred by Maxwell.

Whipcord changed hands in November for £27,000 but has not yet appeared for his new trainer, Paul Nicholls. All in all, a lot of guesswork to predict his precise promise and level of ability.


5yo maiden: 

Ballymalin 5,g Presenting (C McKeever) PP-3 (R85)

Any Irish racegoers of a certain age (ahem!) would be very familiar with the late Northern Irish trainer, Bunny Cox, who had a wonderful band of mares that produced quality jumpers such as Black Trix, Atone and Splendour a couple of decades ago. Colin McKeever and his patron, Wilson Dennison, are fond of this line and Ballymalin is a grand-daughter of Black Trix out of a dual hurdle winner by Old Vic so plenty still happening on the page. They handled a half-brother named Drumlister (2006 g by Luso) to Ballymalin to land a 4yo maiden in 2010 and he subsequently won three modest handicaps for Arthur Moore.

Ballymalin had been a little disappointing prior to winning this relatively weak-looking maiden – a rating of just 85 attests to that – but who’s to say he won’t keep improving over the years to come and at least his sire gives him a chance of doing that.

They couldn’t get £18,000 for him at Cheltenham recently and he was subsequently picked up by Nigel Twiston-Davies who is keen on these pointers. Not one to get over-excited about and it's worth remembering Drumlister needed 10 runs before he got his head in front in handicap chases.

This is the type of potential handicap chaser I would love to see in a low-profile Irish yard that knows the time of day and is very patient.


11 October 2015: Tinahely, Co. Wicklow (good)

4yo maiden

Ballycrystal 4,g Oscar (C Bowe) 5-2 (R87)

Colin Bowe liked Ballycrystal well enough to pay €32,000 for him as a 3yo and he has returned a decent dividend in that he has been acquired by Brian Ellison and Tom Malone for £75,000 following his win in the 4yo maiden here. Fancied on his pointing debut last February where he made a very bad mistake, the trainer’s decision to give him extra time has paid off and, according to Bowe, he has improved a lot since. The eye-catching relation close up on his page is his unraced dam’s half-brother, Comply Or Die, winner of the 2008 Grand National.

Every winner of this maiden since 2008 (8 individual scorers) has scored under Rules so maximum attention should be paid to this winner, Ballycrystal, who paid a handsome compliment to Product Of Love who won on the first weekend of the new season. This fixture is close to the Wexford stronghold of many of the game's leading handlers and it’s no surprise the 4yo maiden throws up winner after winner every year as it’s their first opportunity to run at a local venue. In the last four years alone it’s been won by Wexford “yellow bellies” such as Colin Bowe (Gingili 2014), Donnchadh Doyle 2013 (Island Heights), Sean Doyle 2012 (Letbeso), J P Brennan 2012 (Four Shuck Men) and William Codd 2011 (Dawn Commander).


5yo maiden: 

Our Brian 5,g Brian Boru (J P Brennan) 6FC- (R86)

This race doesn’t have a glowing history but, nonetheless, 5 of the last 6 winners have won under Rules and four of them managed to win on their first (3) or second start (1). The best of the lot has been the 2011 winner, According To Trev, who has won 6 races for Twiston-Davies and David Bridgwater. Last year’s winner, Black Jack Rover, has already won twice and has been second 4 times from just 7 starts.

I am a very big fan of this handler, J P Brennan, as he has a horse that I regularly follow over a cliff, namely, Need To Know, who someday will win a decent hunter chase at a very big price. He seems to be holding on to this horse and he ran well subsequently in a Wexford bumper – finished third – and had his first start over hurdles in early December which I hope is the route to getting him handicapped.

Our Brian’s pedigree traces back to an Aga Khan second dam and he is already a half brother to 2 7f flat winners and a 2m2f hurdle winner for Noel Meade. My recommendation on this horse is to, hopefully, spot a modicum of ability in a maiden hurdle and follow him in handicaps thereafter.


18 October 2015 Loughrea, Co. Galway (gd/yld)

4yo maiden

Ryalex 4,g Arcadio (K Purcell) 5u (7 b) – (R88)

“I think this fellow might even have won the second day at Ballingarry (June 2015) only for he came down. I’d say he wasn’t right when he ran in the bumper during the summer. We can do what we like with him now he’s a good horse”. These were Kieran Purcell’s post-race comments on Ryalex’s impressive win, beating a horse with decent form from last season in Scoresheet, and connections knew they had a horse. Having bought him for just €3,700 the previous August at Tattersalls they must have been very surprised to be able to acquire his year younger half-brother (by Trans Island) for €5,800 at this year’s sale. As the (unlucky) form of Ryalex was in the public domain who says there are no bargains out there!

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.

This is a 4yo maiden that produced Ted Walsh’s well above average Foxrock in 2012 and last year’s winner Fact Of The Matter has already won a bumper for Jamie Snowden and if connections are clever he’s well on his way to being nicely-handicapped over hurdles. I take Ryalex to continue the trend of track winners since 2012.

Ryalex is now with Lucinda Russell who bought him for £22,000 at the Doncaster Horses In Training sale in November.


5yo maiden

Leg Lock Luke 5,g Indian River (Eugene O’Sullivan) FP- (R87)

I mentioned Terry Warner’s purchase of the 5yo Scorpion gelding, Valhalla, previously and he also gave £100,000 at the same, recent Cheltenham sale for Leg Lock Luke, a well-regarded winner of a race that either throws up very decent horses or those that generally stay pointing. It produced Cheltenham winner, Brindisi Breeze in 2011 and the following year it was this year’s Sandown Gold Cup winner Just A Par. It is significant that both those winners joined strong stables in Lucinda Russell and Paul Nicholls (£260,000 purchase) and this year’s winner is likely to be a useful tool. At the time of writing I am unsure of his new trainer.

In a coincidental confluence of events, this same weekend witnessed some high class jumping in New Jersey, USA and it was a former O’Sullivan-trained pointer, Scorpiancer, who scored in the $100,000 Foxbrook Champion Hurdle. Also, The Nephew, a son of Indian River (sire of Leg Lock Luke) also won a valuable handicap hurdle on the same day. The Nephew won a 4yo maiden in Oldtown for Sam Curling in 2012.

I can trace 5 individual p2p 5yo maiden winners for Indian River since 2012 and they have proven to be a mixed bag when running under Rules: River Clare, winner of this maiden in 2013 has been disappointing, and only Monbeg River (2 handicap chase wins for Martin Todhunter) and Call It Magic (won a Cork bumper for his handler Ross O’Sullivan last April) have scored under Rules but, still, these statistics give me sufficient confidence, along with his price tag, to rate Leg Lock Luke a decent prospect especially when he goes chasing as this is the type of horse on which O’Sullivan concentrates and excels.


24 October 2015 Loughanmore, Co. Antrim (good-yielding)

4yo Maiden

Bach De Clermont 4,g Della Francesca (B Hamilton) unraced (R92)

This horse seemed to impress many judges including trainer Ian Williams who parted with £170,000 at the Cheltenham November sale on behalf of his new owner-he was the sale-topper on the day. Rated 92, this is the highest 4yo rating of the new season so far and he was victorious in a contest that produced the very promising undefeated three-time winner, Shantou Village, last season. It has a good track record for producing winners under Rules and this year’s winning handler also produced the five-time winner, Definitly Red, for Steve Gollings and Brian Ellison in 2013.

He is French-bred with a strong jumping pedigree and was bought as a 2yo by connections as a sales prospect. His sire is Della Francesca (by Danzig) who was trained by Aidan O’Brien to win the Gallinule Stakes (Derby trial) in 2002. He’s a reasonably successful “cheap” stallion who appears to get winners under both codes in France where his best jumping representative is Cristal Bonus winner of two Grade 2 chases for Paul Nicholls.

Brian Hamilton described Bach de Clermont as the “toughest horse” he has ever trained.


5yo maiden

Ticinese 5,g Lucarno (G McKeever) 5 unplaced runs on track;  2 (R88)

Graham McKeever seemed to unearth a real bargain when acquiring this gelding for just £3,500 at Brightwells last July. As he won a maiden that has produced three consecutive winners on the track in Britain between 2012 and 2014 – Ballyculla, Mercers Court and Shanroe Santos – it will have been very disappointing to have sold him on at the recent Cheltenham November sale for just £9,000 to Phil Middleton. It seems that his previous track form told against him and I suspect it's Middleton that now has another bargain on his hands.

Ticinese is just one run away from being handicapped over hurdles and is one for more patient punters as he is said to be a lovely chasing prospect and will enjoy jumping on summer ground. All going well a very undemanding hurdling mark should make him interesting in that sphere and also when the ground improves.


25 October 2015 Dowth Hall, Co. Meath (good-yielding)

4yo Maiden:

Shrewd Tactics 4,g Broadway Flyer (Andrew Slattery) unraced (R90)

Andy Slattery trained a half-brother of Shrewd Tactics to win a Ballinaboola 5yo maiden in 2013 and this horse has subsequently won a staying handicap hurdle and chase for Neil Mulholland who bought him for £28,000. His unraced dam is a half-sister to On The Net who won 2 bumpers, a maiden hurdle and three chases for Eoghan O’Grady. £70,000 was a good return on investment for Shrewd Tactics when acquired by Evan Williams at the most recent Cheltenham (December) sale. As Slattery, who hails from Thurles in County Tipperary, gave the world Faugheen in 2012 it was no surprise to see Willie Mullins pay £155,000 for his last winning 4yo, Inspired Poet, last April so he’s well capable of producing good immature stock.

Broadway Flyer is a reasonably productive stallion – his best jumper is Broadway Buffalo who won the 2014 3m “Tommy Whittle” in 2014 and ran second in the 2015 National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham – and his only previous 4yo maiden winner between the flags was Charminster who subsequently scored 4 times for Donald McCain.

Shrewd Tactics looks well capable of further success.


5yo maiden:

Tomngerry 5,g Craigsteel (Liz Doyle) unraced (R89)

Having watched Tomngerry win a modest four-runner Sedgefield bumper under Megan Carberry on St. Stephen’s Day I am bring this fellow to the party a little late. However he won impressively although it’s hard to know if the race had any quality.

I remember writing extensively on a 4yo winner by Craigsteel last season and he is just one of those unfashionable stallions hard to enthuse over. This family has winners over the last three generations but, generally, they won modest handicaps and I don’t expect many fireworks from Tomngerry. His recent sales price of £30,000 just about reflects his ability I would consider and he may be of interest in future handicaps as he’s unlikely to find as soft a race as he did at Sedgefield any time soon.

Postscript: Tomngerry made a winning debut in a Sedgefield bumper on Boxing Day, hacking up by 14L at 6/4.


25 October 2015 Dromahane, Co. Cork (good) 

4yo maiden:

This race produced a dead heat:

Megabucks 4,g Well Chosen (Denis Murphy) unraced (R89)

Burrenbridge Hotel 4,g Ivan Denisovich (K Purcell) F2- (00 rules) (R89)

This first race in the southern region stronghold is interesting for a number of reasons. Firstly, one of the dead-heaters (Megabucks) sold to Evan Williams (seems to have plenty of money to spend in recent times) for £35,000 whilst the Purcell charge failed to sell at a miserly £6,500 at Doncaster. It seems the market will not forgive Kieran Purcell for running his horse unplaced in two summer bumpers and there is obviously more of a mystique about the unraced winner.

Secondly, Dromahane is a very reliable track for future winners and although this fixture is a little out of kilter with usual dates it has produced track winners in the past such as Viaduct Joey, Harpsy Cord and Moyaliff from just four contests.

Thirdly, Megabucks' sire, Well Chosen (by Sadler’s Wells), has produced track winners in Grouse Lodge, Goulane Chosen (worth anyone’s attention when handicap chasing) and Chosen Well from just a handful of pointing winners whereas Ivan Denisovich was a Coolmore shuttler who was packed off to Chile in 2010 and is of no interest to the market. However, this does not mean he cannot sire jumps winners and from only four crops he has 6 winners from 24 runners in that department and guess who has trained his best National Hunt runner to date? Yes, Kieran Purcell has trained Burrenbridge Lodge (by Ivan D) who was one of the best juvenile hurdlers around in 2012.

Both Murphy and Purcell are well capable of producing winning pointers for the track with Murphy represented by The Skyfarmer, The Grey Taylor and Shantou Village and the latter doing very well with the likes of Paddy Pub, Smokey Joe Joe and Run For Firth who all won for him under Rules following pointing wins. Purcell had produced Ryalex to win the younger horse’s maiden the previous week at Loughrea.

It will be fascinating to see how accurately, or otherwise, the market has called these two performers.

Incidentally, it’s not that long ago that Jim Bolger bred and trained a Buckskin mare, also named Megabucks, to win 7 races between April and October 1989. She herself bred just one winner at stud.


5yo maiden:

Moonman 5,g Pelder (Michael Griffin) unraced (R89)

This gelding has a lovely pedigree if one ignores his six half-brothers and sisters! His dam is from French racing royalty – Alec and Freddie Head original ownership – and she was a winner on the flat and over hurdles with many winning siblings, aunts and uncles. When her first three foals proved of very average ability the dam disappeared for a while only to resurface with a 4yo Pelder gelding at last year’s Tattersalls August sale where Michael Griffin picked him up for just €1,300 reflecting a very poor recent page.

Moonman was bred by the stallion master who stood Pelder and it is not unusual for small studs to attempt to promote their ageing stallions (acquired after a relatively disappointing flat career) with a series of coverings to cheaply-bought mares. (Stowaway’s master, Ronnie O’Neill of Whytemount Stud,  is the king in this regard). Buckers Bridge was an early star for Pelder, the star waning a little thereafter, but Moonman promises to be useful and could be a swansong for his, now, 26yo sire(!).

I can trace no other pointing successes for Pelder so he is possibly a “one hit wonder”. Incidentally, Buckers Bridge won four of his first five races for Henry De Bromhead who bought him privately for Alan Potts following his only start in a point.

As ever with winning pointers, Moonman’s sire was going to be a concern but Gordon Elliott thought enough of his potential to part with £30,000 at the recent Cheltenham November Sale. Just three recent winners over the past 5 years suggest your average Pelder winner will attain a track level of 110-120.


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.

Irish Point Notes, Week 11

An Irish Point-to-Point. [Image: flickr]

An Irish Point-to-Point. [Image: flickr]

Irish Point Notes,

by Seattle Dancer

14 December 2014 

Catching up a little today, and a number of performances worthy of serious note for all you talent spotters out there.


Cregg, Co. Tipperary 

This is probably one of the only fixtures that is run on very decent ground each year as the venue has extremely good drainage and the fixture was moved from October to December this year to avoid unseasonably firm ground.


4yo maiden:

With the exception of last year’s winner, Lock Towers, every winner of every division since 2008 has scored under rules and Lock Towers is threatening to keep that record in place as he has been placed on three of his first four starts. 2010 produced the two best performers in Distime and Baby Shine and what was notable about Baby Shine’s win is the fact that she was a mare beating her male peers, a very rare occurrence indeed. Another nugget of note is the fact that last year’s winner, Lock Towers, was a £20,000 recruit to join Ben Pauling whereas Jonjo O’Neill gave £80,000 for the runner-up, Flinstone (trained by Eoin Doyle), and not for the first time he seems to have overpaid for an “ordinary” Irish pointer. This is not a one man vendetta against Mr. O’Neill but he (or his buyers) surely do have a patchy record when it comes to buying pointing prospects as I have “pointed” out repeatedly in recent weeks.


Double Captain by Marienbard trained by Eoin Doyle

This is a local track to Doyle and he has produced horses to run well here in the past including Flinstone (2nd in 2013-see above) and Lucinda Russell’s useful Island Confusion who won a division in 2012. The trainer is using point-to-points to supplement his struggling training business and a useful job he is doing.  This is Doyle’s third maiden winner this season following earlier wins for Dr Waluigi and Jetstream Jack (winner under rules on New Year's Day) although he was probably very disappointed with the “unsold” tag attaching to Dr Waluigi at the recent Brightwells sale. In fact I just see that Double Captain also failed to sell last week at the same sale and this has prompted an acquaintance of mine to remark that the hitherto flush cash available for the winning pointers seems to be getting a little scarcer. I hope to review this sale in its totality shortly.

Double Captain (rated 88) is out of an unraced half-sister to the very useful staying chaser Mr Top Notch (won a Leopardstown Chase and the leading Irish pre-Cheltenham RSA trial in 2007) but of six previous siblings not a single one made it to the track so that would be of concern. The stallion, the 2002 Arc winner, is a completely unknown quantity in that he has returned from stud duties in Japan where, presumably, he was a failure, and his first Irish crop are now 4yo’s. This was his first national hunt winner of any description. Prior to the Captain failing to sell for £48,000 his highest-priced progeny is a rising 4yo who Mouse Morris gave €46,000 for at this year’s Derby Sale. All in all, Double Captain is something of an unknown quantity and it’s probably unsurprising that he was unsold as the bar may have been set too high. Having personally experienced many unsold lots over the years my philosophy freely given to many breeders and pinhookers is “never bring them home!”


5yo maiden:

Another interesting little contest that produces future winners and the horse I learnt most from in the past was the privately-trained Jim Will Fix It whose win here in 2010 signalled that the horse was in terrific form – following two unplaced runs over hurdles and a look of little appeal already attaching to him – and he proved to be enormously lucrative to follow in his subsequent racecourse appearances. This is a trend oft-repeated and it especially applies to inmates from very untrendy stables who are liable to start at very attractive odds.


Dalia Pour Moi by Daliapour trained by John Halley

As mentioned in a previous piece, John is the head vet in Ballydoyle and extracts tremendous enjoyment from his handling of point-to-pointers with regular successes every year. A last fence faller at Glenbane two weeks ago when looking a winner (his only previous start had been tailed off in a Punchestown bumper last April) Dalia Pour Moi (rated 89) made amends in stylish fashion having made virtually all the running on this very nice going. The grey son of Daliapour is surely sales bound and, not surprisingly, was bred for flat racing. A sixth foal, he is a half-brother to French 1m5f claiming winner Equa; his dam was fourth over 9.5f from three starts and is a half-sister to Group-placed 1m4f winner Kharizmi and 12.5f winner Kharimata out of 1m2f Group 1 winner in Italy so Dalia Pour Moi is bred to go a bit. Daliapour, a son of Sadler’s Wells has produced the nice Poungach (won five for Paul Nicholls) and the four-time scorer Aupcharlie who was third in the 2011 Cheltenham bumper. This was Daliapour’s first-ever runner between the flags. One can expect this horse to change hands over the coming weeks.


Tattersalls Farm, Co. Meath 

4yo maiden-two divisions:

Only run since 2012, King Rolfe (90) and Tell Us More (90) are two previous winners who joined high-profile outfits in Tim Vaughan and Willie Mullins and who have been doing well for them.


Drumlee Sunset by Royal Anthem trained by Sean McParlan

The father and son trainer/jockey combination of Sean and Noel McParlan (based in County Down) produced an impressive winner in Drumlee Sunset (rated 90) who may now contest a bumper in the same colours. The same team produced Drumlee Lad to win a 4yo maiden at Fairyhouse last May although I cannot trace that this horse has changed hands since (unsold at £38,000 at the final Brightwells sale at the tail-end of last season). Postscript: the bould Drumlee Lad turned up in a maiden hurdle at Down Royal on St. Stephen’s day and duly obliged at 4/1.

Drumlee Sunset has a pedigree of some note being a second foal (first filly was unraced) out of an unraced Bob back mare who is a full-sister to eight-time winner The Jigsaw Man (including 2m listed hurdle) and dual 2m scorer Tisseman. In turn, her unraced Be My Native dam was a half-sister to  Nicky Henderson’s Stormyfairweather who won the 2m5f Cathcart at Cheltenham in 1999 and 2000 and four other winners of thirteen races. This is the highest-rated Royal Anthem to win a point maiden (previous best was Brian Ellison’s improving winner The Grey Taylor) and Drumlee Sunset does seem to have a good engine. It’s pretty certain that decent ground will be needed for him to show his best.

The trainer has only trained one course winner (from very few runners) over the past seven years but the winner was notable in that in landed a serious touch in a bumper first-time-out before being sold on to J P McManus and Charlie Swan. I had hoped that the McParlan’s might follow this route with their latest winner but note that Roger Brookhouse was impressed enough to pay £130,000 for him last week at Brightwells. As the horse reportedly had only schooled three times prior to this win he looks to have oodles of improvement in him and if the togs out for a class 6 bumper in darkest Devon or similar I would probably be very interested in him.


Yorkhill by Presenting trained by Colin McKeever

This winner took little finding as he was unlucky in running two weeks earlier (similar to Dalia Pour Moi) and he “kept on well” to win at odds of 2/1 albeit he lost his closest challenger who ran out at the second last. Additionally, he was an expensive €41,000 acquisition as a foal by McKeever’s main patron, Wilson Dennison, on account of his sire Presenting and an unraced Saddler’s Hall dam who is closely related to 2m1f-3m1f hurdle/smart chase winner Offshore Account, useful 2m1f-3m hurdle/chase winner Dooneys Gate and a  half-sister to high-class chaser The Listener & smart chasers Fork Lightning and Distant Thunder.

Sure to join a big stable in England he (rated 87) also looks a potential star of the future.


5yo maiden-two divisions:

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The race saw Capote (87) and Maximiser (91) score in two of the three divisions last season and both are performing very well for Jonjo O’Neill (doing well at a cost of £75,000 for Trevor Hemmings) and Simon West respectively. What I find interesting is that compared to O’Neill, West would be relatively unheralded which allowed his 91-rated recruit to start at 10/1 on his winning debut under rules and trainer fashion – or lack of – often offers an opportunity to snaffle very decent odds on racing debuts.


Island Master (89) by Turtle Island trained by Liam Burke

The Cork handler belatedly opened his account for 2014/15 with victory for a gelding contesting his eighth race including a bumper (beaten 42L) on his most recent start last May. I am not hugely enthused by the winner although Burke did opine that “he will make a fine chaser in time” so I will include him for the long haul as he’s now expected to go hurdling possibly after contesting a winners’ event.

Personally, I believe it’s an indication that Burke’s horses are in rude health – he also had two seconds on the same card – and I think he could easily win a race or two on the track over Christmas at a decent price or two. He hasn’t been in the best form of late so a winner would be extremely profitable if it can be found.


Kayf Supreme (87) by Kayf Tara trained by Jim Dreaper

Bred to stay this horse was bought by present connections for a whopping £115,000 after he ran second in a point last November behind a winner trained by the very same Jim Dreaper. The winner, Venitien De Mai, is one of my strongest fancies to win races (entered at Thurles on Monday 5th Jan) and obviously Dreaper thinks very highly of him to encourage Alan Potts to purchase Kayf Supreme. Strangely, it has taken him four subsequent runs to win his point-to-point although he has been running respectably in those contests.

Dreaper, whom I mentioned in my very first blog, is very much a believer in educating his horses in points has produced some really nice sorts like Royal De La Thinte, Goonyella and Venitien De Mai for Alan Potts in recent years and I would be very keen to include Kayf Supreme (rated 87) in this select band now that he has won his maiden. If he follows recent trends he is likely to contest winners’ events before heading to the track although it appears it is now more likely he will start his hurdling career early in the New Year.


Borris House, Co. Carlow

This was a new autumn fixture for the Carlow Farmers Foxhounds (they normally race in early spring) and they were handsomely rewarded for their pluckiness with 105 runners from 140 entries necessitating 3 divides and all the maidens – four, five and six-years-old and upwards required two divisions. Given my eye as self-appointed guardian of the Queen’s English I can simply relate the news that the divisions of the older horses’ maidens were won by Rebel Benefit and, remarkably, Royal Benifet, truth being stranger than fiction.

The new well-supported fixture meant much-needed funds for the Hunt but, obviously, no previous history to aid us in our search for future winners.


4yo maiden: 

Raise A Tail (88) by Definite Article trained by Mark Fahey

There are more Fahey’s from the same midlands family involved in racing in Ireland than there are peas in a pod and the names of Seamus, Jarlath, Peter and Paul will be familiar to most Irish racegoers. Mark Fahey hails from the very same pod (a version of the Irish twelve apostles?) and last Sunday he saddled Raise A Tail to win division one of this maiden before rushing to Navan to saddle Golden Plan in the handicap hurdle and finally donning his amateur-jock silks and finishing fourth in the bumper for Jessica Harrington. All in all, not a bad day’s work.

He has trained a few pointers since 2012 (two of his previous three winners have won under rules) and has trained two winners himself under rules and although he handled Golden Plan to win a 6yo maiden in December 2012, that Goldmark gelding had won a Tramore bumper before the month was out for his uncle Peter. Could lightning ever strike (almost) twice with Tramore scheduled to race on New Year’s Day?

Raise A Tail paid a compliment to his conqueror Minmore Lodge (joined Donald McCain for £40,000 after the recent sale) from the maiden at Kirkistown a few weeks earlier although on this occasion the market decided that, as it had been just a four-runner event, the contest lacked depth and he was allowed to start at a drifting 6/1. He jumped poorly at times and his rider briefly lost an iron after a mistake at the second last so he did well to score on the day as he needed a decent turn of foot to collar the leader on the run for home.

He has a very nice, dependable pedigree as the dam won a point and two modest handicap hurdles for Jarlath Fahey in 2007 and she is a half-sister to 5 winners of 16 races including the mare Rathmuck Native – winner of a solitary bumper for Peter Fahey – who is also by Definite Article so he shares the same father with his mother’s half-sister! History would suggest heavy ground would be unsuitable for Raise A Tail and that victories will come in unheralded events on days that the world won’t be watching. Apparently there will be a post-race family enclave to decide on the horse’s future with the grand matriarch Maureen holding the casting vote.


Fingerontheswitch (89) by Beneficial trained by Donnchadh Doyle

Another winner from the Doyle production line this 2/1 winner had nice placed form behind Gingili (bumper winner) and Shantou Village (£80,000 purchase) on his only two previous starts. He had failed to sell (as maiden-placed) at the Brightwells November auction so he is probably heading back to this venue in January with more realistic prospects of selling.

His pedigree offers a little hope being by Beneficial and he is a half-brother to The Bomber Ryan, a winning pointer who is very well handicapped over hurdles – provided he hasn’t retired. His Crash Course second dam won three times over hurdles and one expects that Fingerontheswitch will do whatever winning is in him over staying trips on soft/heavy ground.


5yo maiden 

Get Involved (87) by Milan trained by Sean Doyle

Form figures of “PU, UR, 8”  hardly inspired confidence prior to this two-division contest and an examination of his pedigree – eighth foal and no siblings have ever placed on the track out of an equally winnerless dam line – offered little encouragement there so there will be no great clamour for this horse if and when he turns up for sale. If connections can recover his cost of €14,000 as a store three-year-old they may regard is as a “result” after an unpromising start to his career. The second-placed horse from this maiden catches my eye and he is another added to a long list of less-obvious track-winning potential material.


Hitman Hearns (89) by Milan trained by Liam Kenny

A double for Milan in this divided maiden but likely to feature more for modesty than brilliance I would venture that a winner’s rating of 89 is generous. This was the gelding’s ninth start although his improvement has been credited to a wind operation earlier in the year after he had failed to complete in six previous starts. His pedigree is quite respectable and should he progress through the winners programme next spring (he needs good ground) he might be a summer horse to follow in time but not an obvious candidate for now.


Boulta, Co. Cork

This was an additional fixture for the United Hunt having run their traditional autumn meeting on 23 November, just three weeks earlier. Another very healthy entry saw 95 runners and (groan!) another divide in the two geldings’ maidens.


4yo maiden 

Hawkhurst by Flemensfirth trained by Denis Leahy

This was Leahy’s first time to visit the winners’ enclosure this season and he boasts a very respectable 19% strike-rate with all his runners since 2007. His winning maidens have been very popular with Donald McCain but, ironically, it was the 2012 4yo winner, Desertmore Stream (£105k), that he did not purchase that turned out to be the best of Leahy’s graduates who won four races for Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown outfit. Dan Skelton also picked up the four-time winner, Ballincurrig (£50k), from this quarter. McCain’s winners have tended to be lesser lights and include Beeves, Oscatara (£55k), Dreams Of Milan ((£65k) and Blackwater King (£85k) who have all won at lower more modest level. Blackwater King, incidentally – who has won a Kelso hurdle – was from the same ownership as Hawkhurst.

Leahy himself also trains a few for the track and he managed to squeeze a handicap hurdle out of his winning 5yo, Handsome Dan, a rare winner tracing back to September 2012. If he does have another rules winner lurking in the shadows of his Charleville, Co Cork yard it might well be the mare, Rosygo, who collected a mares’ maiden in 2013 and hinted at some decent ability in a Clonmel maiden hurdle some weeks ago when running out of her mare-only class and against a Mullins’ hotpot to boot. When she won her maiden she was spoken about in terms of a mares’ bumper. I advise a weather-eye on her.

Hawkhurst picked up a very decent rating of 92 in coming home alone from three unraced maidens and showed plenty of class to win in very a very flattering style. There’s little doubt he was a class apart here and the form of the vanquished will be followed closely to confirm this very catching first impression. He has all that would be asked of a maiden winner being a full-brother to the top-class winner Muirhead (Grade 1 hurdle and Munster Chase National winner) who was fifth in Punjabi’s 2009 Champion Hurdle. He cost €41,000 as a foal and will be in great demand when he turns up at public auction although the trend nowadays is to sell privately once the phone calls start from the big cheeses of the jumping game. My guess is that he will soon be a Gigginstown starter and will be “flying high” for Mr. O’Leary.


 Just Cause g by Court Cave trained by Michael “Mouse” Morris

Mouse Morris really only lives for the big horseracing occasions nowadays and following his ascent of the Gold Cup peak with War Of Attrition in 2006 everything he does since happens with a sense of anti-climax. He continues to enjoy the patronage of many of the bigger owners in the game, including War Of Attrition’s owner Gigginstown Stud, and division two of this 4yo maiden saw the launch of the latest arrow attempting to hit a variety of Cheltenham targets over the next few years.

He does use the point-to-point circuit as a launch-pad and usually is not the greatest fan of bumpers in a horse’s education. War Of Attrition fell in his only start in a point while his top-class First Lieutenant and Rule The World (still no forlorn hope for top honours according to Mouse himself when I ran into him recently and a horse I have great faith in personally). In fact Rule The World was Mouse’s only previous 4yo maiden winner since 2007 so I would put great store in this son of Court Cave to defy a relatively modest rating of just 87 when he starts his career under Rules. Morris gave €60,000 for Just Cause as a 3yo at the Tatts Derby Sale in 2013 and he is an own-brother to Willie Mullins’ Clondaw Court, unbeaten in all five of his competitive starts including a point victory in 2012 for Colin Bowe. In fact, Clondaw Court may yet turn out in time to be his father’s best track representative an honour currently held by Martin Keighley’s Champion Court. Just Cause’s dam won a chase over three miles and she in turn is a half-sister to a mare who won five times over a trip. Just Cause had finished third in a maiden earlier in the year for Gordon Elliott and the same owners (Gigginstown) and he merely confirmed here what he promised to do last March.

There’s no doubt in my mind he will win races and hopefully we will all be on when he does!


5yo maiden: 

Queer Times g by Zagreb trained by Donal Coffey

Jumping historians or enthusiasts will immediately recognise a play on the name of Vincent O’Brien’s 1955 Grand National winner, Quare Times, whilst those of a PC bent will perhaps raise an eyebrow for some other reason entirely. Alternatively, anyone searching in an encyclopaedia for a definition of “quare” will have to rely on me that it is often used in the context of “well shure, he’s a quare one!”

All I can say about this trainer – based in Midleton, Co. Cork, home of the nonpareil Jameson whiskey – is that he has been practising his art for 15 years and anything that wins a point maiden for him should be followed closely and this advice applies both to horses sold on and the few horses he retains to train privately under Rules. He has a superb record training winners between the flags and under Rules and from a very modest sample has produced horses of the calibre of Presenting Copper, Copper Bleu, Gurtacrue and the excellent mare Top Madam.

Of five siblings of Queer Times, including a full-brother, all have won on the track (including three who managed to win a bumper) and the dam won a bumper for Di Haine on her first start.

This horse, winning on his third start and rated 89, was impressive and wherever he goes, he should be followed.


Bigbadjohn g by Vinnie Roe trained by Garrett James Power

Following a nice fourth (rated 83) behind Battle Of Shiloh two weeks earlier Bigbadjohn (87) scored by 3L with a staying performance on this his fourth attempt at breaking his duck. He jumped poorly but managed to beat a horse that was beaten out of sight in a Cork bumper last August. Out of a four-time bumper/hurdle/chase winner (at a modest level) Bigbadjohn’s siblings to date have been a forgettable bunch and this offers a chance to recoup some of the €22,000 the dam cost in 2005.

I can find no compelling reasons to add him to my tracker.


Horses To Follow:

Double Captain 

Dalia Pour Moi 

Drumlee Sunset 


Island Master 

Kayf Supreme 

Raise A Tail 



Just Cause 

Queer Times

Irish Point Notes, Week 10

An Irish Point-to-Point. [Image: flickr]

An Irish Point-to-Point. [Image: flickr]

Week 10 – week ending 7 December 2014 

By Seattle Dancer

Dromahane, Co.Cork

If point-to-point racing has a spiritual home Dromahane would be easily vying for top spot and it’s a location surrounded by many of the top handlers in the country and indeed is not far from where the first “steeplechase” is recorded as taking place as far back as 1752. “El Gran Senor” himself, Michael Vincent O’Brien, was born in the area and trained in Churchtown prior to his move to farm called “Ballydoyle” over five decades ago and where he trained the occasional winner.

4yo maiden:

This was only the first time this autumn that a 4yo maiden had to be divided and, coincidentally, a divide was also required at Tattersalls Farm the following day-probably a case of trainers unleashing “youngsters” before their fifth birthdays just around the corner.

My Hometown by Presenting trained by Enda Bolger

This winner was a huge whisper beforehand and scored at odds of 2/1 on and in the process was awarded the highest rating for a 4yo this autumn of 93. Owned by J P McManus and named after a song by Bruce Springsteen in honour of the seriously injured JT McNamara –one of the stalwarts of the pointing jockey scene for many years -  if intentions count for anything this horse should be good. He cantered home here and I hope that he remains with Bolger who describes him as “a very promising sort”. He is out of a Niarchos-bred mare who changed course to visiting jumping sires a number of years ago and has produced five winners although nothing really of note and none managed to win a bumper somewhat unusually given the flat pedigree. The dam is however a sister to two very good jumpers in France. There’s no doubting this horse has very good potential and he will be followed until events prove otherwise.


Fairly Legal by Beneficial trained by Robert Tyner

For a trainer who’s been leading handler for three of the past six years Robert Tyner certainly doesn’t rely on 4yo maiden winners to thrive either economically or under rules. He has only trained a handful of 4yo winners over the past eight years  and I cannot trace that a single one of them has been sold on. Tyner’s main reputation is as a trainer of sturdy chasers so perhaps it’s not at all unusual that he doesn’t buy young, precocious bumper types to train and relies on the traditional old-fashioned, slower maturing Irish national hunt types. He can be usually relied upon to have a well-handicapped chaser ready to unleash every year at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival.

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The winning 4yo’s he has trained include Boss Croaker (won two handicap hurdles and was very astutely campaigned prior to these wins), That’s the Dream (single chase win) and Sir Abbot who collected a maiden around this time last year and is developing as a useful hurdler. I’m pretty certain his 4yo Mount Brandon that won on New Year’s Eve last year is a slow-maturing type and I will be keeping a very close eye on him in handicap hurdles over the coming weeks and months.

The win of Sir Abbot possibly heralds a slight change of course as Tyner has produced two 4yo winners in recent weeks and I wrote about the promising American just last week. Fairly Legal now commands respect (rated a very respectable 90) and he collected a division of this maiden in which four horses were backed to win. He stated after the race: “I’ve always loved this horse and he has been showing a lot at home”.

Bought by connections at the 2013 Goffs Land Rover sale for a lumpy €31,000, the winner is owned by connections of perennial pointing champion jockey Derek O’Connor, who rode him, and he may well change hands before very long which, as I mentioned above, would be unusual for Tyner. JP McManus would be an obvious point of contact as he has been a good supporter of Tyner over the years and has invested in his stock and retained Tyner as the trainer of choice.

I do feel that Tyner’s traditional profile is changing at present and I will watch developments on the 4yo front with interest.


5yo maiden:

Another divide to keep me busy! It’s a race that has also been divided in the past and is capable of producing good horses to win on the track with Sraid Padraig (139) and Our Island (130) being the best two graduates since 2010.


Definite Outcome by Definite Article trained by Eoin McDonagh

Not a lot to go on here from a stable that was producing only it’s second ever winner. The horse is sales-bound and will be under the radar wherever he turns up on account of unfashionable origins. Out of an unraced King’s Threatre mare (bonus point) who was related to a dual handicap hurdle winning mare out of a very nice mare who won no less than nine times.

A rating of 88 is respectable and he is one for those who prefer to follow a very dark horse. He made a respectable £35,000 at the Brightwells December sale and is on his way to Rebecca Curtis.

Incidentally, McDonagh’s only previous winner was the 5yo Topper Thornton who joined Colin McBratney for £30,000 last May and could well be another plot in the making as I rate the trainer who is based in Co. Down.


At The Doubble by Oscar trained by Ronnie O’Leary now with Peter Niven having been acquired at Brightwells on 12 December for £33,000.

From a low-profile handler to a low-profile trainer. O’Leary usually is given a handful of horses to prepare on behalf of J P McManus and of six previous 5yo maiden winners he has trained, four were owned by McManus and two (from three) of these subsequently scored under Rules for Jonjo whilst the fourth won a maiden hurdle for Mouse Morris. Of two horses he sold on, one of these managed to score three times for Rebecca Curtis so, all in all, not a bad record for his graduates. At The Doubble’s new trainer, Peter Niven, does not have a record of buying Irish pointers in the past (at least from his winners) and it will be interesting to see how he fares with this horse bought for a regular client. Niven manages to win with about one runner from every fourteen starters so it’s not what one might describe as “prolific”.

I simply have to believe that there is some reason that this horse has been christened “doubble” as the alternative of a misspelled straightforward word is appalling. Race reports  do not record post-race if this is indeed the case. Anyhow, At The Doubble (86) was a fortunate scorer when the most likely winner fell at the last but the “winner” tag probably added a few thousand to his value thanks to a modicum of luck on the day.


Horses To Follow: 

My Hometown 

Fairly Legal 

Definite Outcome 

At The Doubble



Irish Point Notes, Week 9

An Irish Point-to-Point. [Image: flickr]

An Irish Point-to-Point. [Image: flickr]

Irish Point Notes, Week 9, by Seattle Dancer

Week ending 30 November 2014 (four fixtures)

 Rockfield, Co. Roscommon 

4yo maiden:

The noticeable trend from this particular race, albeit that there have been three abandonments since 2008, is the fact that almost all winners remained with their handlers and went on to score under Rules. The best of a motley bunch to appear on course was unquestionably Portrait King who won the 4m1f Eider Chase in 2012 for a division 4 trainer, Michael Phelan, and has unfortunately been very injury prone since.

Anyone  reading my blog for clues for what is unstated should note that I have a stack building for last year’s winner whose time on the racecourse proper is fast approaching, a horse that cost a staggering €130,000 as a 3yo and has spent the first six months of his career running for peanuts in point-to-points but has made the progression from maiden winner to, symmetrically, a winners-of-one, -two and –three-a most unusual feat for a, now, five-year-old.

This year’s winner is a French-bred and the curiously-named “American” trained in County Cork by Robert Tyner. Hailing from this stable there is a reasonable chance that American (rated 87) will remain under the care of Tyner and continue the recent winners’ tradition of winning for him under Rules.

I have to say it was one of the strangest finishes I’ve seen in years as the jockey of the original first-past-the-post Always On The Run seemed to try to deliberately steer the promoted winner into “the middle of next week” and it seemed to me one of the most foolhardy manoeuvres I have ever witnessed in a horse race. If it happened at Punchestown or Plumpton it would be a Betfair thread running on full-tilt for days on end. The officiating stewards reversed the placings of the first two home and such decisions are a very rare occurrence in pointing races.

Although French-bred, the previously unraced American is by a German stallion, Malinas (by Lomitas by Niniski by Nijinsky to try to give the sire-line some context), who was second in the 2004 German Derby and currently has two top class runners representing him in Black Thunder (fell going well in this year’s RSA-trained by Paul Nicholls) and Medinas who recently won Newbury’s G2 Long Distance hurdle for Alan King. He cost a reasonable-looking €15,500 and the dam-side offers plenty of encouragement as American is a half-brother to many French middle-distance winning jumpers with plenty of black-type on the page.

American’s owner, in the absence of an absent Tyner, who is enjoying a very good spell with his runners at present, was ebullient after the race and big things are clearly expected of this horse as “we think an awful lot of him and he has a big future”.

There is no 5yo maiden run on this card.


Kirkistown, Co. Down 

4yo maiden:

Only four runners turned up for this event and it was won by Minmore Lodge – by Flemensfirth – trained by the Wexfordian Sean Doyle (responsible for an October 4yo winner Black Sam The Man who didn’t impress me and who subsequently changed hands for the £15,000 bid by his new trainer John “Shark” Hanlon – and they say shark by name, shark by nature!)

The small field makes deciphering the race a little more difficult unfortunately because the race history has a stellar cast. Every horse that won a division since 2008 and has competed under Rules has won under Rules including David Pipe’s 2014 Cheltenham scorer Ballynagour and Annacotty who collected the 3m Feltham Chase for Martin Keighley last Christmas. Incidentally, Keighley seems to manage to get his hands on a few very promising graduates each season.

On this record alone one has to include Minmore Lodge (rated 88) on any watch-list and, especially so, since he was a very good second behind a previous selection, Cogryhill, only two weeks earlier. Clues as to his exact ability are scarce with an “impressive” display yet he was “forced to work hard for victory” and, remarkably, in the absence of the winning trainer, the successful jockey said that “they think a lot of him”!

He looks very well bought once again for just €13,500 as his three full-brothers (a breeder with a share in Flemensfirth?) have all won on the track and are of some account. They tend to need middle-distances and upwards to win and haven’t had the speed to win bumpers. You can’t ask for much more close up on a jumping pedigree. Winning jockey “Bon” O’Neill was very complimentary about the performance and like all winners hailing from these quarters he will be offered for sale at public auction.



There are an interesting number of diverse angles to this winner.

General Principle g by Gold Well trained by Stuart Crawford

Crawford has now won three of the last four runnings of this race a fact I must confess I was unaware of prior to last Saturday because 5/1 looks a very generous S.P. to me. This previously unraced horse received a hat-load of plaudits from the on-course reviewing journalist and a nifty rating of 90 to accompany the luuuvvvvv! Crawford’s other two previous winners were Mill Bay (an unpromising rating of just 82 was borne out by five unsuccessful starts under Rules) and Call Box who collected a winners’ event one year later before graduating successfully to the track and immediately scoring in a beginners chase for Crawford.

Call Box had been handicapped over hurdles prior to his second pointing win (a rating of 100 was a very significant marker) and he subsequently scored three times in handicap hurdles from an initial winning mark of just 90 (and subsequently 111 & 118). Incidentally the chase win earned him an opening chasing mark of 122 from which he was unable to add to his steeplechasing tally. A half master-class in training! Incidentally, Crawford trained Ballynagour to win the 2010 4yo maiden here and, as you should know, this horse won this year’s Byrne Group Plate at the Festival.

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Crawford bought General Principle for €20,000 as 3yo for former Antrim trainer Roy Wilson and he is a full-brother to Saints And Sinners, winner of 2 hurdles and a chase (2m1f-2m5f) for Mick Easterby, and the 2002 mare Bella Mana Mou who collected four wins (2.5m-3m) for Michael Cullen and it’s a good stout chasing pedigree. Gold Well is increasingly popular as a stallion – he’s an unraced brother to Montjeu – and he recently transferred to the Coolmore roster thanks to the exploits of Holywell, among others.

The horse’s owner, Roy Wilson, is also worth a mention as he formerly trained both between the flags and under rules and he successfully graduated the winning pointers Flemross and Seriatim to success on the track during his career which now seems at a lull. After General Principle scored so impressively Crawford stated, “I bought him for his owner Roy Wilson at the Doncaster Sales two years ago and he is a very nice horse who could go anywhere” so I hope he remains in the same partnership for his approaching racecourse career. In an interview I have read Crawford was of the opinion that the horse needed “reasonable ground, otherwise we might try him in a bumper but he could go any route” which I must confess leaves me a little puzzled as to the exact interpretation of this.

Finally, before departing the scene I want to relate the quotation from the afore-mentioned Roy Wilson after he had trained his ex-winning pointer Flemross to win his first handicap hurdles on his seventh attempt: “He is a front runner so that keeps him out of trouble. I didn't know how fit he was today. He is a summer horse so we will keep running him now. He needs thunder and lightning, thunder to wake him up and lightning to make him go.”


Lisronagh, Co. Tipperary 

4yo maiden 

Itsnothingpersonal – by Beneficial trained by Edward O’Grady

O’Grady’s fortunes have dipped dramatically in recent years rumoured to have been catalysed by his spurning of advances from Gigginstown (on their very specific terms) and a reported falling out with JP McManus. He was one of the greats of Irish National Hunt training and I, for one, hope that he returns to the big time.

It was particularly sad that he felt compelled to issue a statement last year around the time of the summer store sales denying that he had retired and he’s probably one of the biggest sufferers from the steep dip in the Irish economy that saw many of his clients go bust. O’Grady has won 18 races at the Cheltenham Festival but for me he will always be associated with Golden Cygnet who threatened to be possibly the best hurdler of all time but died tragically after a fall in the Scottish Champion Hurdle. It makes me gulp to realise this all happened back in 1978!

This autumn fixture was first run in 2010 and, ironically, its first winner and most expensive auction horse at £130,000, Dramatic Duke, was a failure for Jonjo O’Neill. However, all five subsequent winners have scored under Rules and three of them managed to win on their racecourse bow at odds of 11/2, 5/4 and 16/1. A rating of 90 suggests that Itsnothingpersonal has the scope to be a decent horse inside the rails.

A seeming bargain at just €8,500 as a 3yo he is owned by O’Grady’s son and is a half-brother to a very smart sort of Robin Dickin's, Garrahalish (Presenting), who has scored four times. Indeed, after he won his novice chase at Towcester in October, Dickin was predicting great things for him. These two horses have been a great boost to the pedigree as the dam’s five previous foals to race had all looked very pedestrian. The dam herself won at a modest level on the flat and over hurdles but she is a half-sister to four winners of 16 races in what is a predominantly flat pedigree.

Itsnothingpersonal had started favourite on his only previous pointing start last May and confirmed the high regard in which he is held by this performance. O’Grady wasn’t giving much away on future plans but he will surely train him personally under Rules as his ammunition in recent times has been quite limited. The perfect result for him I imagine would be to sell the horse and for him to remain in training in Ballynonty.

5yo maiden 

Florida Calling by Presenting trained by Denis Prendergast

Coincidences are where we look for them and Prendergast happens to be the man that handled Dramatic Duke (mentioned above) who was the expensive 4yo flop at Jackdaws Castle in 2010/11. Denis Prendergast operates a private buy-to-sell operation for his patron Terry Ryan and they have struck gold in the sales ring since they geared up their commercial operation in 2010 and they have produced a total of 8 younger winning maidens that have secured top dollar from Paul Nicholls and, particularly, Jonjo O’Neill. Their best graduates have been No Loose Change (a late developing 6yo who scored four times for Nicholls) and Handy Andy, who has been a consistent sort for Colin Tizzard.

Curiously, Jonjo O’Neill has trained nothing but expensive flops from this source and Dramatic Duke (£130,000), Pepper Canister (£170,000) and Oficial Ben (£120,000) have all failed and a £240,000 purchase by Paul Nicholls (Italian Master) only managed a single victory for Dan Skelton after he left Ditcheat. All in all a very poor record for Prendergast’s protégés and one would be very wary of his stock were it not for the exception to every rule! Free Expression won the very last 4yo maiden of the year run in 2013 for Prendergast and he has been a real star so far for Gordon Elliott and JP McManus (interesting that he wasn’t sent to Jonjo after being acquired privately by McManus!) winning all three of his hurdling starts and it looks as it Cheltenham 2015 beckons.

Back to this contest, and it hasn’t been a great source of winners although the Champion Hunter Chaser, Salsify, won in 2010. Its other claim to fame is a winning hurdler from 2012 who is poised to win in his first start in a handicap chase at Limerick this coming Christmas (!) and last year’s winner, Final Pass, has already won over hurdles for Donald McCain.

This year’s winner, Florida Calling, had failed to finish in two starts at four and he appeared to beat a modest bunch of opponents in this contest although a rating of 91 suggests he impressed the race-readers. Furthermore, being by Presenting he would prefer better ground and his trainer was of the view that this “lovely horse with much better to come” could go for a bumper if he’s not sold. So far, the “going for a bumper” would not appear to be a particularly regular route for the trainer and its long odds-on he appears in a sale. Florida Calling’s sales catalogue page will read very well as the winning dam is a half-sister to Moon Over Miami (eight-time winner for Charlie Mann) and Presenting Lisa who is currently making waves as a promising 5yo prospect in mares’ events this autumn.

If history is repeated – or at least the successful version of it – this horse will soon run in the green and gold hoops of McManus but is probably unlikely to be sent to Jackdaws Castle to be trained. However, if past racing trends are to be relied upon he will be no more than a modest winner under rules.


Ballindenisk, Co. Cork 

4yo maiden: 

Ballybane by Acambaro trained by Carl Dore

The unfamiliar sire appeared vaguely familiar and I realised he was also responsible for Mai Fitzs Jack about whom I wrote last week and who I regard as capable of doing a job for his current connections at a particular level. Although I didn’t review the sire then my less than effusive endorsement of the youngster was caused by the lack of familiarity with Acambaro. He is a German-bred grandson of Lyphard who transferred to Ireland in 2008 and his first crop of Irish-breds are now 5yo’s. He has a lot of catching up to do to feature as an obvious sales attraction and for this reason I am reluctant to take much of an interest in Ballybane.

Carl Dore has trained a few 4yo maiden winners over the years and his best horse, by far, was Alfa Beat who he trained to win a point-to-point and he landed a serious touch with this horse on his first venture into handicap hurdling company. The horse subsequently became a cash dispenser for master gambler Charles Byrnes before winning a Kerry National a few years ago. In my opinion Ballybane does not have the necessary credentials to be an obvious sales target.

However, I will probably be far more interested in him if he remains with present connections as their handicapping history offers some possibilities. As I write I will probably include him in my horse-tracker as a rating of 88 gives him a chance and he did manage on the day to beat representatives from all the in-form yards. The race has a very good record of producing track winners also and with the exception of a Jonjo O’Neill representative (again!) all recent winners have scored well under rules including Indian Castle, Carraig Mor, Al Alfa, Danandy and Hard To Swallow.


5&6yo maiden: 

“I can’t spare this man, he fights.” 

Battle Of Shiloh by Shantou trained by David Kiely

Shantou has already been responsible for the winning 4yo, Shantou Village this season – an £80,000 purchase by Neil Mulholland – and as an anorak-wearing American Civil War amateur historian, if names count for anything this son of Shantou deserves to be a Gold Cup winner! He has a decent if recently quiet pedigree with the unraced Soviet Star dam being out of a half-sister to the 2000 Cheltenham bumper winner Joe Cullen.

Handler David Kiely started off the 1994 Grand National winner Miinnehoma in points and is part of the Waterford “Kiely” dynasty, fronted by John Kiely, who is no slouch when it comes to training jumpers and is often referred to as “king of the bumpers”. In recent times David Kiely has produced just two winners from a relatively small number of pointers namely She Ranks Me and Grouse Lodge and these horses won 12 races between them under rules for Donald McCain. Battle Of Shiloh is due to sell at Brightwells next weekend and he will surely be on McCain’s shopping list. Incidentally, once again if you discount a Jonjo O’Neill acquisition, Benzel – from 2013 but perhaps early days as yet – all three previous winners ran to a high standard on the track (average OR was 130) including the aforementioned Grouse Lodge from 2011.

The above quotation is by none other than Abraham Lincoln who made this comment when under pressure to remove General Ulysses S. Grant as head of the Army of the Tennessee in the aftermath of the Battle Of Shiloh which, incidentally, he won!


Horses To Follow: 


Minmore Lodge 

General Principle 


Florida Calling 


Battle Of Shiloh





Irish Point Notes, Week 8

An Irish Point-to-Point. [Image: flickr]

An Irish Point-to-Point. [Image: flickr]

Irish Point Notes, by Seattle Dancer

Week 8 – Week ending 23 November 2014 (four fixtures) 

From the glens of Antrim to Tipperary’s Golden Vale. 

Toomebridge (Co. Antrim) 

4yo maiden

Naming a horse Kilcullen Flem (86) is enough to turn me off my early morning cornflakes reminding as it does about..........well, never mind! The Donnchadh Doyle-trained son of Flemensfirth was a very lucky winner here and came into this race on the back of modest form so I can’t have him on my mind at the moment. It hasn’t been a bad little contest over the years with four of its seven previous winners having scored under Rules with the best of the lot being last year’s 130-rated winner Katachenko, trained by Donald McCain. I will introduce you to the significant performer in this race at a later stage.


5yo maiden 

Infrontofthejudge (86) was scoring at his sixth attempt in maidens and he appeared to beat a fairly modest bunch of opponents and I cannot find a reason to recommend following his subsequent exploits given a very weak pedigree and a little-known sire in Clerkenwell.


Glenbane, Co. Tipperary 

5&6yo maiden:

The recent history of this race has been unremarkable and it looks as if this year’s winner, the Ted Walsh-trained Salsa Sensation (85), does not have obvious claims to reverse this trend. It’s a race open to both five and six-year-olds and this fact alone suggests a lack of quality. Salsa Sensation is by Luso who at one stage threatened to be the “next big thing” but his expensive purchases have generally disappointed and the horse now stands at an obscure stallion farm in the UK.


4yo maiden:

At last something to note from last weekend and another maiden that produced one of my “top ten” horses to follow over the last seven years in the Pat Doyle-trained Famousandfearless. Unfortunately he took a while to learn the winning habit for his new trainer David Pipe having been bought privately by David Johnson and an acquaintance of mine banked a very healthy sterling cheque in the following weeks.

This has been a race populated by some classy track performers over the years and includes such notables as Royal Reveille (Ted Walsh), Moonlight Drive (Sean Quinn) and Nicky Henderson’s River Maigue. In fact when this race was a three-way divide in 2012 that included Famousandfearless, David Pipe also bought Sail By The Sea for £85,000 at public auction and this lightly-raced, injury-prone sort has scored a very impressive novices hurdle victory on only his second (and latest start). The irony wasn’t lost on me!

This year’s winner, Indy Five (a son of Vertical Speed trained by Pat Doyle and rated 90), was a very unlucky last fence faller at Rathcannon in late October and he started at a remarkably generous 7/2 here as the market was all over an unraced son of Presenting also trained locally by Sam Curling. He won in “fine style” off a fast pace and cost his US-based owner Roger O’Byrne (brother of John who buys JP McManus’s stores and Demi who is a major cog in the Coolmore machine) a modest €10,000. His unraced dam is a half-sister to bumper/useful 2m1f-2m4f hurdle/chase winner Father Matt (trained by Noel Meade) out of half-sister to good hurdlers Carobee and Winter Squall.

His sire Vertical Speed probably accounted for his low-ish purchase cost as he has been a modest jumps sire and transferred to a small stud in Ireland from France in 2006. None of his pointing winners (from just 7 winners) ever managed to win on the track and in fact the best two, Fight Away Boys (won on this weekend as a 5yo last season) and Moores Road, have shown signs of temperament issues. On the positive side he is capable of producing a decent winner in the shape of Philip Hobbs Horizontal Speed who numbered a bumper amongst five victories so far but the good horses are few and far between. It’s interesting to read all the rave reviews about Indy Five’s performance (“future bumper winner” etc.) without any reference to his sire and coming from these heavyweight quarters the sales result will be very interesting indeed.


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Lingstown, Co. Wexford 

5yo maiden: 

Roadie Joe (g by Golan trained by Brian Jordan)

In 2012 Mac’s Return (91) won a division of this maiden and joined Paul Nicholls for £165,000-it’s been money badly spent. Similarly, Brian Jordan’s most high-profile point winner to date was the 2012 5yo maiden winner, Outlawed Tunes, who subsequently joined Noel Meade (for Michael O’Leary) at a cost of £140,000 and, that too, looks not to have been the wisest investment. Jordan’s horses have tended not to be up to performing on the track with distinction. These two tales of woe are enough to make me wary of Roadie Joe (a modest RPR of 86) and he’s likely to be sold now. Like most pointers that head for the sales, if he finds a new home in the UK he will probably be capable of success at a modest level but he’s not for me.


4yo maiden:

The afore-mentioned Brian Jordan won a division of this race with Ravastree in 2010 and he went on to achieve a single modest handicap chase win for Charlie Longsdon. I would say that, in general, it is a race worth paying some attention as it has seen the likes of Alfa Beat (won a Kerry National), Sea Of Thunder (rated 144) and Desertmore Stream (four-time winner for Gigginstown and controversial trainer Philip Fenton) on its roll of honour in recent years. Philip Fenton, who is about to start a two-year suspension shortly for steroid abuse, trained this year’s winner, Highway Storm (by Stowaway), and it looks like it was his last throw of the dice for some time. It seems to be his own horse so he may get a decent payday to help his finances now that he has been put out of business. Fenton explained that Highway Storm loved the soft ground and has a bright future. A rating of 90 gives him plenty of respect too. The dam side of the pedigree is very weak but the sire ticks all the right boxes for the sales agents. At least the trainer hasn’t lost his sense of humour as he remarked: “Great stuff! Now let’s get a photograph as it may be the last one for some time!”


Boulta, Co. Waterford 

4yo maiden: 

Dr Waluigi (g by Shirocco trained by Eoin Doyle) 

Of the last eleven winners of this race only three have failed to score under Rules: two of these had injury problems and the third managed a good second in a Limerick maiden hurdle. A good race rather than a great race (as one of Ireland’s most popular soccer pundit is prone to say) but it has produced winners of the calibre of Ballyalton (five-time winner and second to Faugheen at this year’s Festival), Oscar Fortune (hat-trick winner for Jonjo)

and Native Gallery (consistent four-time winner for Ben De Haan) so the winner has to be noted every year.

This year’s winner provides something of a puzzle as Dr Waluigi receives a rating of just 85 – the lowest rating for a 4yo this autumn season. This rating was based on what seemed a very average renewal (he had been a well-beaten 5th on his reappearance three weeks earlier following two poor bumper runs earlier in the year) but I can think of a few reasons why he might be seriously under-rated at this mark.

Firstly, he has a fantastic pedigree being by Annie Power’s sire out of a 12f winning mare and from a very immediate Aga Khan family that is full of winners and whose stoutness ensure they are hardy recruits to jumping. Secondly, he beat an unraced Stowaway trained by one of the game’s shrewdest operators Thomond O’Mara and thirdly the third home, Robin Of Locksley, is trained by Jack Steel’s trainer, Martin Hassett and he thinks quite highly of his horse even if he left him a little disappointed here – he looked a winner turning in. Next, Eoin Doyle is in tremendous form and produced Jetstream Jack to win impressively a week previously and, finally, Dr Waluigi was strongly fancied for his first start in a Limerick bumper last March so had been showing all the right signs at home presumably.

A horse I will be keeping a close eye on from now on and he’s likely to be selling at Brightwells in a fortnight’s time.


5yo maiden:

This race hasn’t shone in recent times although I think it can produce one of the handicapping certainties of the season based on my researches of past seasons! As the Danny De Vito character famously says in “L.A. Confidential”: Off the record, on the QT, and very hush-hush.............

This year’s winners were

Welcome Bach (g by Bach trained by Alan Tobin) and Mai Fitzs Jack (g by Acambaro trained by Mary Louise Hallahan).

The latter (rated 88) had been a nice second last season to Westend Star who joined Donald McCain for £125,000 and has yet to reappear so he had already given a clear indication of ability. He subsequently disappointed when sent off an odds-on favourite when falling at Bandon last March and this was his first run since then so the trainer has done a fine job getting him back to his best. Hallahan’s previous exploits in points don’t offer many clues about this fellow’s future prospects but my educated guess, based on her eight winners under Rules over the past five seasons is that this horse can potentially win a hurdle race or two for her.

It’s clear from her previous victories that although her horses have mostly won handicap hurdles they are doing their best also in maiden hurdles and 25% of her wins have come in this category. My hope is that this horse will continue to campaign for Hallahan and this may even include an abortive attempt to sell him over the coming weeks. Mai Fitzs Jack would be my idea of a handicapping plot if I were in control.

I discussed the winning Bach 4yo Baby Bach a number of weeks ago and, unsurprisingly, he was let out unsold at Brightwells recently. He received an upbeat commentary from his trainer Stuart Crawford in a recent stable tour – going for a bumper and “jumps well” – but it’s probably significant he has failed to change hands Post sale or privately) in the interim. This winning 5yo gelded son of Bach, Welcome Bach, is an unknown quantity as he is trained by a very low-key handler in Alan Tobin and my guess would be that he may stay pointing in an effort to win a winners’ event. My research data tells me 5yo winners-ofone require a very specific increased rating before they are of interest on the track so I will not be following this horse in the foreseeable future. A delve into his pedigree doesn’t offer much encouragement to change my mind.


Horses To Follow: 

Indy Five 

Highway Storm 

Dr Waluigi 

Mai Fitzs Jack










Brightwells Cheltenham Sale Notes

Pick of the Brightwell lots

Pick of the Brightwell lots

Update on sales from Brightwells (previous nominations), by Seattle Dancer

I think many of my predictions in terms of the recent Brightwells Sale were borne out and you needed a good recent performance on winter ground aided by a popular sire to hit paydirt.

Jack Steel: sold reasonably well for £33,000 considering no-one wanted the sire. Handler convinced he has sold Lucinda Russell a good horse. Lucinda’s best ever point acquisition was Brindisi Breeze.

Need To Know: Not sold at £75,000 and was probably on the boat home the following day. What does not sold mean specifically? A reserve too high? Greedy connections? An underbidder at £74,000 and he was sold privately in the bar afterwards? No interest in him at all and the bidding was entirely fictitious? Public auctions are notoriously unreliable and who on earth knows what transpires unless the horse changes hands? Why would you bid for an auction lot not knowing beforehand when the horse will be on the market. (Easier ways to “win the watch” in my opinion).

Fact Of The Matter: a win on good ground and a sire rejected by Grange Stud suggests getting £42,000 for this winner was, ultimately, a good result and a reasonable return on a €16,500 investment. The horse will join Jamie Snowden and in recent times he has bought three winning 4yo maidens and two, Lough Derg Way and Present View, have been quite successful for him.

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Black Jack Rover: this 88-rated son of Vinnie Roe was bought by Donald McCain for £40,000. McCain buys large numbers of pointers at public auction although there is a debate abroad at present that his horses are not running as well as they have in the past. Perhaps someone will have an opinion on this? 

Lovely Job: £30,000 (to Donald McCain) probably is a fair reflection of this fellow’s value given an unknown sire and a mid-October victory.

Kerisper: strangely, this potential one-hundred-grander was withdrawn from the sale and may have been sold privately, was under the weather at the time or may turn up in one of the December sales. One thing’s for sure, he’s unlikely to race in Wilson Dennison’s colours again.

Shantou Village: ticked a lot of boxes but perhaps a win on good ground kept the interest in check. Fetched £80,000 and this 90-rated winner will now be trained by Neil Mulholland who handled King Helissio (4yo autumn winner from 2012) in the past-won a maiden hurdle at 25/1 on his second start under rules.

Shanroe Santos: The agent Tom Malone bid £50,000 for this fellow but I’m uncertain of his new home. Jimmy Lambe will not be plotting handicap coups with this winner and I thought £50,000 was a decent price in the circumstances.

Mr Mountain: £60,000 to the final bid of Tom Malone who was busy on the night. No new home earmarked as yet.

Crosshue Boy (by Brian Boru): Not sold at £48,000 and looks overvalued at this sort of price. I’ll be surprised if he hasn’t changed hands privately since for a more realistic offer.

Battle Of Clontarf: another unsold Brian Boru gelding (at £22,000) and one can see that the market will reject certain sires after a period of time.

The Chuckmeister (5yo by Germany): another Tom Malone purchase, this time for £43,000 and another “fair” return for connections.

Stilletto: Roger Brookhouse is obviously not one for horse’s names with perfect spelling and he forked out £130,000 for this typo. No trainer has yet been chosen and the horse is being given a short break before commencing his track career.

For Instance: £85,000 was the reward for Codd at Brightwells recently and he is now with Jonjo O’Neill having been knocked down to agent Ross Doyle.

Amber Gambler’s win on winter ground was timely and propitious coming as close as it did to sale time. Gearoid Costello (partner of Rebecca Curtis) was impressed enough to give £125,000 for him and it was a sweet result for the vendor.

Irish Point Notes, Week 7

An Irish Point-to-Point. [Image: flickr]

An Irish Point-to-Point. [Image: flickr]

Irish Point Notes, by Seattle Dancer

Week 7: Affane and Corbeagh House 

Corbeagh House, Co. Longford 

The Hunt responsible for this fixture has been plagued with bad weather in recent years with only one previous autumn meet to their credit in 2010. Corbeagh House represents a new venue and a very poor entry of just 34 participants points to potential shortages in runners as a result of the major cull in broodmare numbers in Ireland in 2009/10 brought on by the recession that ravaged the country back then. 2010 did see both a four- and five-year-old maiden on the card won by lowly-rated horses that both went on to modest handicap success under rules and, coincidentally, local trainer Gordon Elliott was responsible for the 4yo winner.

4yo maiden:

What is one of the ultimate in self-indulgences in racing? Spending $13.1m on a yearling? Buying a foal at any cost to deny a competitor? Retaining a jockey based on loyalty rather than ability? Obviously there is no precise answer in this sport-of-kings but for me it could be the sheer luxury of covering a national hunt mare with a top-class, nay world-class, flat stallion. However, one word of caution is that you probably need to be on first name drinking terms with one John Magnier if Sadler’s Wells was your chosen poison or, indeed, Galileo today.....and, yes, it most definitely happens.

We know that Sadler’s Wells is the progenitor of world class flat stallions (Galileo, Montjeu, High Chaparal etc) and this sire-of-sires is also responsible for many of the leading jumps stallions of today in Old Vic (r.i.p.), Milan, Kayf Tara etc so it was probably inevitable that at some stage he would be sent a national hunt mare or two to see if he could produce a champion hurdler or Gold Cup winner from a “genuine” jumping pedigree. He has obviously produced many jumping stars (none better than Istabraq) but what intrigues me is the record of the few mares that were not visiting him to produce flat winners but the specific ambition was a jumping star. Not many breeders got this opportunity and it seems to have been restricted almost entirely to the occasional mare owned either by Magnier, J P McManus and the occasional wealthy “outsider”. The results were as expected and J P produced a Gold Cup winner in Synchronised while Magnier bred an Irish Grand National winner in Cane Brake from a relatively small sample size.

There is also an element of this indulgence involved today with Galileo and David Johnson sent his multiple-winning jumps mare Lady Cricket in 2006 and it produced Swing Bowler who won his first five races for Johnson and David Pipe including a lowly Wincanton bumper on his debut in 2011-what a certainty that was! I imagine Johnson paid handsomely for this privilege whereas I wouldn’t be so sure about McManus in earlier times.

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In a very roundabout way this brings me to the winner of this 4yo maiden which was Cogryhill (by Presenting) trained by Gordon Elliott. Cogryhill, out of a Shalford mare, is already a full-brother to two female bumper winners for Elliott and Nicky Henderson and a half-sister by Revoque has won four races for Fergal O’Brien. The second generation is eye-popping in that the dam is a half-sister to the McManus/Jonjo stalwarts Wichita Lineman (won twice at the Festival) and Rhinestone Cowboy (won everything bar Cheltenham success). This is an exceptional pedigree for the point-to-point scene and a further half-sister to Cogryhill’s dam is by Galileo (from a 2007 cover and which started my delve back into Sadler’s Wells pedigrees) but, unusually this gelding, named Wild West, could only manage four places from eleven starts for Jackdaws Castle connections so it doesn’t always work! Cogryhill was a €26,000 purchase by Wilson Dennison (more usually associated with Colin McKeever) and it will be a major surprise if this winner (given a promising rating of 90) isn’t already in a horsebox on his way to Jonjo’s.


5&6yo maiden:

Far more prosaic material in this race won by the 6yo Court Frontier (by Court Cave) and trained by a relatively unknown Alan Fleming who trained privately in the UK for a spell. He is owned by Barry Connell (of Our Conor fame) who is a bit of “a law unto himself” when it comes to spending his money on racehorses. Court Frontier is already handicapped over hurdles (103) (placed four times from 11 starts under Rules for Conor O’Dwyer) but I’d rather not see him so exposed to be of interest.


Affane, Co. Dungarvan 

4yo maiden: 

Jetstream Jack (by Beneficial) trained by Eoin Doyle (rated 91)

With a rating of 91, a sire of some substance in Beneficial, a race with a record of consistently throwing up horses of quality (Rule The World, Western Warhorse, Ballysteen, Lackamon and Benbane Head) this Eoin Doyle-trained winner simply has to be followed. Out of a winning dam (bumper and two hurdles) who is a half-sister to four other winners he cost a hefty €36,000 at last year’s Derby Sale. What’s not to like?

For the remaining unconvinced or unconverted Doyle has previously trained and sold point winners of the calibre of Champagne West and Village Vic-both high class scorers for Philip Hobbs-so when Doyle says “he could be as good as any I’ve sold” we probably should pay attention.


5yo maiden: 

Heron Heights (by Heron Island) trained by Donal Hassett (rated 88)

It’s taken this horse five starts to win his maiden which is always a concern. A €12,000 3yo, on the plus side is his half-brother Witness In Court, a point winner who’s been a good servant to Donald McCain (3 wins from 2m-2m5f) and a horse who convinced me I had the game by the throat the day he won his maiden hurdle at Sedgefield in December 2012. The unraced Dr Massini dam is a half-sister to Make A Stand (also by Witness Box) who won no less than 16 races for Peter Bowen all over distances in excess of three miles. One can see why Witness In Court was by Witness Box but, ironically, it was only when he was dropped in trip that he seemed to shine. In my experience the “distance” predictability of jumpers is a far less certain outcome than a flat counterpart pedigree.

The sire does get bumper winners and the statistics on previous 5yo winning maidens are as follows: from 15 such winners 12 have run under rules with 9 winning. Just over half contested bumpers and Otago Trail (rated 90) and Bishops Road (rated 91) were the only two successful in this sphere. The point ratings of the two winners suggest that the horses had a touch of class between the flags and I venture that Heron Heights, on 88, would not be in this category. Heron Island’s track-winning 5yo maiden pointers tend to be a middle-of-the-road bunch on the track in general. Derek O’Connor seemed to suggest on Sunday that the horse appeared to have bumper ambitions (take with a pinch of salt?) but he has some serious stats to overcome to justify this remark.


Horses To Follow:


 Jetstream Jack

Irish Point Notes, Week 6

An Irish Point-to-Point. [Image: flickr]

An Irish Point-to-Point. [Image: flickr]

Irish Point Notes, by Seattle Dancer

Week 6 

Maralin, Co. Down 

4yo maiden:

Our old friends in Dunraven Stud (home of Brian Boru) are also standing another Coolmore National Hunt cast-off stallion in Bach here since 2011 and he sired the winner of this maiden in Baby Bach trained by Stuart Crawford. It’s hard to know what to make of the race as Baby Bach seemed to contest the race on the back of very modest form in three previous runs although in beating an unraced son of Beneficial (cost a very modest €4,500 as a yearling) one is left guessing as to the exact value of the performance. With doubts about the sire – he never really produced much from serving probably one thousand mares in his Coolmore days – I am disinclined to get excited about this fellow’s future prospects. A rating of 88 seems generous to me.

Bach has only sired the winner of six previous 4yo maidens and David Pipe subsequently bought and trained the best two of them - Shaking Hands and Shoegazer won 13 races between them - and only in the event that this horse turns up in Nicholashayne would I reverse my opinion of him.


5yo maiden:

One of my absolute bug-bears in racing is the number of times connections misspell horses’ names and I‘m afraid Irish national hunt owners are particularly guilty of this crime. I will keep my beady eye on such matters and woe betide the offenders!

Stilletto (!), a son of Westerner, nonetheless was a previously unraced impressive winner here (RPR 89) for yet another trainer from County Wexford, Andrew Latta, who was helping his grandfather (William Powell-Harris) celebrate a home-bred winner from a dam line that extends back some time for his owner. It’s a pedigree that doesn’t really catch the eye depending on a very good chaser in the eighties, Proud Bishop, who was a full-brother to Stilletto’s grandam albeit she won a point and was placed in three bumpers for Powell-Harris and the dam also won a point. The dam’s best previous foal, Eastern Witness, won a point maiden in 2013 for the exact same connections and this horse was subsequently bought by Venetia Williams for £15,000 but looks like he needs to improve (after 5 starts) to win. I expect that the sire Westerner will ensure plenty of interest in this horse if and when he is sold.

When following this horse, who seemed to impress all the right judges, bear in mind that he won on very testing ground that only saw four of fourteen starters complete. This race was previously won by Shanroe Society – a horse I mentioned in connection with a recent Jimmy Lambe winner recently – in 2011 but the best recent graduate was Henry de Bromhead’s five-time winner, Buckers Bridge, considered good enough to contest this year’s Aintree Grand National.


Ballinaboola, Co. Wexford 

4yo maiden:

William Codd bought For Instance (by Milan) privately at the Brightwells Sale last April (officially “not sold” at £25,000) following a third placing in a Carlisle bumper earlier that month when trained by Tony Coyle and he looks like he will get a quick return on his investment. He was a nice winner here beating a fancied newcomer from Donnchadh Doyle’s yard and is almost certainly sales bound.

Codd won this race in 2009 with Mike Towey (won two for Peter Bowen) and in 2010 with Lowparklad but this horse didn’t race again for 27 months and obviously had his problems after making £62,000 at a subsequent sale-the joys of the jumping game! I got positively delirious about Need To Talk’s victory in 2012 as it was a pedigree I know and love but although he fetched £230,000 subsequently he’s only had the one poor run since for Paul Nolan to whom JP McManus sent his new acquisition. Alas, it looks as if he has some serious problems and time is catching up quickly. (I generally have my own private ranking of winners based on a number of my own personal preferences and this horse would have been one of my all-time top ten selections).

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Given the deluges hitting the Ireland at present and now that these horses are racing on what we would recognise as genuine winter, jumping ground I expect the level of ability and subsequent sales interest to increase.

For Instance’s pedigree suggests that winning a bumper would not be a high priority as all the best family performers excelled over staying distances and I suspect that will be the case here.


5yo maiden:

“Doing what it says on the tin” is a favourite quote of mine from a winning handler when his son of Kayf Tara had scored in a 5yo maiden on testing ground some years ago. The contents of same tin can still be relied upon and Enda Bolger, trainer par excellence of big and sturdy banks and cross-country staying performers, introduced a Kayf Tara newcomer here (Rosstemple) who won although perhaps not quite in the manner expected of an odds-on favourite. The immediate reaction is that he didn’t beat a whole lot and it will be interesting to see where he goes next.

This is not the customary owner/handler looking for a sales result – his owner, John Power, dispenses gems of legal wisdom to the “powers”-that-be in Coolmore - and it would be safe to assume that if this horse is of much account he will run, in time, in the green-and-gold of one Mr McManus, a sometime neighbour (tax rules permitting!) of the winning owner. Another alternative is that Rosstemple will remain as a pointer/hunter chaser and provide a conveyance of some class to the very useful amateur Kevin Power, son of same legal-eagle. To strangle another quotation to death “the proof of this particular pudding will be in the eating!” It has to be said that Enda Bolger spoke in fairly glowing terms about the horse following this victory so far be it for me to question his belief (“the dream is alive and the future bright”) in this horse.

In a similar vein to today’s 4yo maiden winner this horse hardly strikes me as a bumper type and I often can’t see the point in running many of these winners in bumpers where they race usually for less than one mile after an inevitable early crawl.

Update: My faith in Need To Know continues unabated following another victory here in the Open at what I considered generous odds of 3/1 thanks to the presence of “talking horse” Mossey Joe. Connections now seem to think they have a genuinely valuable and saleable commodity so future moves will be followed with interest and he holds an entry for Brightwells.


Kilworth, Co. Cork

Jonjo Bright and J T McNamara have been high profile jockey casualties in recent years and this meet was run as a fundraiser for the Injured Jockeys’ Fund and, as such, there is no past autumn history to rely on. Kilworth’s main meeting is held in March every year. This venue in County Cork was the first meeting of the year in what is referred to as the “southern circuit” and traditionally it is home to some of the strongest stables involved in the game. The biggest names from this region would be Robert Tyner (who tragically lost his son Jack in a fall on 1st February 2011 at a point-to-point fixture in Dungarvan, Co. Waterford), Jimmy Mangan (Grand National winning trainer), Liam Burke, Michael Winters and Paul Cashman. One can expect this meeting to produce some explosive sales results over the coming weeks and, more likely than not, the principal results will contain decent future track performers.

4yo geldings maiden: 

Amber Gambler (by Doyen) trained by Pat Doyle

It was Co. Tipperary-based Pat Doyle, who scored with a sales-bound 4yo son of Brian Boru, Fact Of The Matter, a few weeks back, that produced an impressive winner here in Amber Gambler albeit there were a couple of hard luck stories in evidence in the race also. He is a German-bred son of Doyen (standing in Germany a few years back) who is now standing at Sunnyhill Stud in County Kildare and he was specifically placed there by Darley to replace the great Old Vic who died in 2011. Doyen’s first crop are still just seven-year-olds and he is promising to deliver top quality national hunt racehorses. Alan King has handled Doyen’s best two representatives to date in Kumbeshwar and Valdez.

The owner of Amber Gambler, vet Walter Connors, bought a number of horses in Germany a number of years ago and this win was the third horse to win for him from three purchases. Given the popularity (and cost) of French-breds at present this might well signal a change in tactics for some who may perceive better value in Germany.

Amber Gambler has a predominantly flat pedigree but with his sire being a son of Sadler’s Wells it will be no surprise if he has very decent ability under jumps rules. Doyle was of the opinion that his horse was a very good jumper who would have plenty of improvement to come.


5yo maiden: 

Vinalhaven (by Lavirco) trained by Pat Doyle

The very same owner/handler connection scored with another German-bred in this maiden and according to his handler “he could be very good”. His sire is responsible for twelve-time winner Mikael D’Haguenet among others so he is bound to be popular if sent to the sales ring.

Vinalhaven’s pedigree is a little difficult to decipher but four siblings have won over jumps in France which is very encouraging. A rating of 93 is the highest so far this season for a 5yo maiden winner. (Shantou Village, on 90, remains the top 4yo maiden.)


Horses to Follow: 


For Instance 


Amber Gambler 







Irish Point Notes, Week 5

An Irish Point-to-Point. [Image: flickr]

An Irish Point-to-Point. [Image: flickr]

2 November 2014 – Grennan, Co. Kilkenny

Compiled by Seattle Dancer

I attended this fixture held in a natural amphitheatre by the banks of the river Nore with the ruins of Grennan Castle looking on forlornly. I always like to walk the track at any meeting I attend and this track has fairly sharp bends on its one-mile circuit and there can be a lot of trouble on the last bend before facing the final two fences.

It was the only points fixture held last weekend and it was a fairly low-key event with a modest crowd in attendance. The action happens very fast and if you prefer to watch the racing in the outfield you need to be wearing your sprinting shoes to get to see the winner being led in. In general, organisers missed a few tricks here and the paying public didn’t feel like they were particularly loved with one gentleman in particular deciding that a loud shouting voice was the best way to deal with recalcitrant youngsters straying unwittingly in front of a few horses being led up.

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4yo maiden:

This was won by Sean (brother of Donnchadh) Doyle’s Black Sam The Man and he possessed very average form going into the race in what was the first 4yo maiden hosted by the Kilkenny Foxhounds since they first inaugurated their autumn fixture in 2007. The race proved an embarrassment for the course commentator as he got the winner mixed up with Donnchadh Doyle’s favourite, Native Gamut (carrying the same silks), and only realised his error on the finishing line. Oops!

Connections claimed that a first-time hood transformed Black Sam The Man after three previous mediocre runs but I am not tempted to include him in my future watch-list based on a race that boasted very little decent form beforehand and all the runners had looked quite exposed and of little account.

5yo maiden (two divides):

I am also dismissing the performance of Sean Doyle’s Monbeg River (helping him to celebrate his first ever points double) in division two on similar grounds to his 4yo winner as he looks very average on what we have seen of him to date and whereas it’s a contest that has thrown up the odd racecourse winner in the past neither this horse’s rating of 84 nor the race’s poor recent record is encouraging.

The winner of division one was won by Kieran Purcell’s Bold Bachelor and I have been mentioning Purcell’s good recent run in my latest notes. This horse also won a very modest contest but he is already handicapped under Rules following three runs in maiden hurdles in February and March earlier this year. He’s had one spin in a handicap when well beaten off a high-looking 110 at Wexford in April but following Purcell’s comments about his horses being under a cloud at the time Bold Bachelor can be expected to improve significantly from this run hopefully off a lower re-assessed mark. It is not at all unusual for handicappers to show their well-being in points before going on to immediate success on the track and Pat Downey’s winner Dream Crusher from last year’s autumn campaign immediately springs to mind.

Horse To Follow: 

Bold Bachelor 


Rules Update: The only horse from my list to run under Rules to date was the (now) Donald McCain-trained Gingili who scored in a Musselburgh bumper on Friday afternoon at odds of 7/2 (he was available at better prices throughout the day). Apart from being a good start for my Christmas fund it has given a boost to much of the early 4yo form that will come under scrutiny at Brightwells next Friday evening after racing at Cheltenham. A delighted Martin Hassett called me following Friday’s race (his Jack Steel had comprehensively beaten Gingili in a maiden four weeks ago) and he will be hoping for a bumper payday following this timely boost.


Irish Point Notes, Week 4

An Irish Point-to-Point. [Image: flickr]

An Irish Point-to-Point. [Image: flickr]

Irish Point Notes, Week 4, by Seattle Dancer

Week ending 26 October 2014: 

Loughanmore, Co. Antrim. 

4yo maiden: 

Shantou Village – g by Shantou (Denis Murphy) 

Denis Murphy is no slouch at winning maidens and has done well for a few clients who buy to sell and Maria Byrne, Pat Coffey and Shantou Village’s owner, Thomas O’Sullivan, have all done well at the sales with previous 4yo maiden winners from this quarter.

How much would you give for Shantou Village at Brightwells in two weeks’ time based on the partnership’s three previous 4yo winning maidens? Grey Monk (by Alderbrook) fetched an eye-watering €210,000 and was a major disappointment for Potts/de Bromhead, The Grey Taylor (Royal Anthem) has yet to win after four starts since he cost P J Martin and Steve Gollings £110,000 and Gee Hi (Milan) who fetched £80,000 has won a bumper and maiden hurdle for Charlie Egerton in what looks a truncated 4-race career. Note: As I type I see that Gollings’ horse, The Grey Taylor, whom he describes as a “monster” and “can be dangerous” has just won a Wetherbys novices’ hurdle to improve the immediate record.

The sire Shantou, whose most promising representative is currently Willie Mullins’ Briar Hill (bought, incidentally, by Mullins for £100,000 for Graham Wylie after winning his maiden at Necarne in 2012), certainly gives Shantou Village a chance to progress and his damline, although predominantly flat-bred, features In The Forge who scored in a bumper and two 2m hurdles for Mick Halford and is a half-brother to Shantou Village’s dam. He obviously had some quality as a 3yo as he was a €27,000 purchase at the 2013 Goffs Land Rover sale. He was one of five stores bought by O’Sullivan on the day.

He scored here quite impressively from horses with what looked like good recent form, including a previous nominee Ballykan-probably a shade disappointing in third- and received a rating of 90 for his troubles, the highest of any 4yo maiden so far this season. Generally speaking, the winner of this maiden is worth following under Rules and only Balnahinch (from 2008) has failed to score and his career was cut short after finishing second twice in just four starts for Henrietta Knight. Horses like Mr Moonshine (dual Grand National runner), Balnaslow (W Mullins), Champagne West (P Hobbs) and Definitly Red (S Gollings) have all been prolific track winners and recent previous winners of this maiden. He looks one to take serious note of and I would rate his sire over the likes of previous graduates by Alderbrook and Royal Anthem who were responsible for previous winners from these quarters.


5yo maiden:

Some of the best fun to be had following pointers is when they are retained in a relatively small stable in the obvious belief that the handler believes he can get them to score when the time is right. Jimmy Lambe did this to marvellous effect with a previous winning 5yo maiden (from 2011) named Shanroe Society at Thurles in January 2013 and it was a victory well worth waiting for as he seemed to do a wonderful job on the handicapping front - the horse was a decent winning punt at 9/2. Interestingly, 19 runs later, Shanroe Society has yet to win another race.

This is by way of introduction to Lambe’s winner of this maiden named Shanroe Santos owned by the same connections as the afore-mentioned gelding, sharing the same sire in Definite Article, both purchased at public auction and both been given introductory runs under rules before going pointing. Shanroe Santos, purchased as a 3yo in 2012 for €15,000 had been running reasonably well in four recent bumper outings (fourth at Roscommon last May on his latest outing) and it shouldn’t have come as any surprise that he was capable of winning a maiden here. He was given a decent rating of 92. I’ll be a little disappointed if he is now sold but based on past history he will now be well educated over timber and I fancy having a little investment on him in three-four months time when “the time is right”. Jimmy Lambe is no wool-gatherer although I have just seen that his post-race comment indicated the horse may in fact be sales bound.


Winner of One:

It has been seven years since a 4yo scored in “winners” company against his elders and of the three horses to do that in 2007 two were of no account. The only maiden winner of note to take that route was John Nallen’s Minella For Food and that project didn’t really work out because the horse picked up an injury (after finishing a promising second in a Thurles hurdle) and was off the track for almost two years thereafter. Mr Mountain (by Mountain High and trained by Donnchadh Doyle) managed to do that here and one anticipates it was a performance of some quality for which he received a rating of 92-the same rating awarded to Shanroe Santos – and a pretty decent rating for a 4yo.

Mr Mountain had managed to win one of the very last 4yo maidens run last season at Kinsale in early June and was promptly despatched to a special section of the Tattersalls Derby Sale where he was led out unsold at £75,000 much to the chagrin of connections no doubt. I expect there would be a view abroad that late-season 4yo’s winners are not worth that sort of money so the Doyles were forced into last Saturday’s rearguard action and one can imagine that they will now expect him to fetch £75,000 or more at Brightwells this time round. He only cost them two-and-a-half-grand as a 3yo so it looks good business now. His Oscar dam was pretty slow but her full-brother and two half-brothers won six races between them and they tended to run well on their early racecourse appearances. His sire, Mountain High, has just 5yo’s on the ground and early signs are promising that this Coolmore rookie will make the grade as a decent jumps stallion. Doyle and his owners were obviously very determined to get a pre-sale “result” taking this adventurous “winners” route with Mr Mountain so it will be one of the more fascinating results at the Brightwells Sale scheduled for Friday evening, 14 November. Doyle was quoted as saying that the horse will be better over shorter trips than the three miles negotiated here.


Tattersalls Farm 

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4yo mares maiden 

Washington Lady – m by Beneficial (Donnchadh Doyle)

In the first race of its type this autumn this was yet another winner this season for Doyle (he already has five individual scorers) and I am quite fascinated by how young mares progress if and when they ever get to the track. As I have mentioned in an earlier thread, the unforgiving jumps game is not suitable for most mares and you get a very large number of “unraced” mares that go straight to the breeding shed. That they generally command little interest and, consequently, cash, at the sales as racing prospects means that a jumping mare producing lots of filly foals for a breeder will not be very profitable and can be the bane of a farmer’s life. This winner, for example, made just €1,200 as a 2yo jumping prospect whereas her year older full-brother earned €9,000 as a yearling.

Washington Lady is by a “proper”, albeit dead, sire and her unraced dam (who’d of guessed?) was a half-sister to three winners – all by Beneficial incidentally – the best of whom was Pat Fahy’s five-time winner Washington Lad considered good enough to contest the 2005 3m novice hurdle event at Cheltenham. Washington Lady was given a rating of 80 (mares will generally be 8-10lbs behind their male counterparts) and based on past evidence this will not make her a standout rules prospect where, in my experience, you need a rating approaching the mid-80’s to be ranked a future star. Occasionally a mare will run well and on very, very, isolated occasions manage to beat her male counterparts when they are pitted against the geldings and that’s when it can get very interesting. These are my five-star horses, not Cheltenham prospects or sale-toppers but rather something to go to war with against the bookmakers.

I have lots of data on how maiden-winning 4yo mares perform subsequently and I may get a chance to post on this topic over the course of this blog.


4yo Winner Of One:

What made Mr Mountain’s performance at Loughanmore even more noteworthy was the fact that connections decided to take on older winners even though they had a rare enough opportunity this very weekend to race against winning 4yo’s. In the event this event attracted maidens only and it was won yet again by a Donnchadh Doyle trained performer in Crosshue Boy (by Brian Boru).

I wrote in week two about Brian Boru and his relatively disappointing time as a Coolmore jumps stallion and here we have another maiden winner that must be thrilling his new owners at Dunraven Stud in South Wales although they’re not very sharp on updating their stallion’s successes on line. Crosshue Boy looks cheaply-bought for just €8,200 at Goffs last February but, in fairness, the mare had looked dog-meat material before producing this winner as her previous ten foals were useless and the mare herself was as slow as a week. The only saving grace on Crosshue Boy’s recent history was the dam’s half-brother Yellow Spring who won 9 times for D M Grissell in the early nineties. Someone in Camp Doyle has a serious eye for a horse and they are making plenty of money turning geese into swans.

Crosshue Boy is now rated 88 as a winner of a five-runner “maiden” and with all newcomers taking part it’s difficult to get a handle on his ability. Hopefully by the time he gets to the track we will have picked up a few more clues.


5yo maiden 

Believe it or not, more joy for Bridgend and Dunraven Stud as Brian Boru keeps up his current purple patch. Big Jack Behan scores for Sean Gallagher but it looks a very modest contest and it’s the trainer’s first winner in three years so at least he probably got drunk later that evening even if he didn’t produce the Gold Cup winner here.



4yo maiden:

I took a very keen interest in this race in 2010 because it featured a Michael Hourigan-trained winner who had been educated at David Wachman’s Longfield Academy. Suffice to say I had a Listowel beano some months later when this horse bolted in at 33/1. Happy days!! Run With The Wind was the horse and it’s possibly a coincidence that he ran into fourth today (Nov 1) at Down Royal in a handicap hurdle at precisely those same odds.

It is generally a decent contest and it’s coincidental that best recent winners have hailed from yards more associated with racing inside the rails (Michael Hourigan and Willie McCreery). It’s also a meeting that usually kick-starts the season but this fixture was postponed for a month on account of firm ground. The winner, Battle Of Clontarf, is named after a famous skirmish in Dublin exactly one thousand years ago and it featured Ireland V Denmark and just guess who captained Denmark??? BRIAN BORU! (who was enjoying his fourth pointing winner in October and leads the field in the sire standings). It really seems to be uncanny that the stallion is excelling on such an auspicious anniversary.

The UK justifiably makes much of the involvement of Mick Channon and Michael Owen in the racing game and here in Ireland we have our own version of former sports stars involved in Gaelic Games who are now featuring as successful trainers. The afore-mentioned Willie McCreery (who enjoyed Group One success this season with Fiesolana) and Battle Of Clontarf’s trainer, Kieran Purcell, a former stalwart of a famous Kilkenny hurling team, are two that come immediately to mind. I have kept a keen eye on Purcell’s runners over the years and winning pointers like Paddy Pub and Smokey Joe Joe have performed exceptionally well when Purcell has targeted them at contests under Rules.

Battle Of Clontarf (rated 88) had been a decent second to the Spain/Doyle winner Fact Of The Matter two weeks earlier at Loughrea and was a lucky winner here as he looked destined to be at best second before a few tales of woe handed him the advantage. The race is immediately filed “for future review” as there appeared to be three other horses who all suffered various degrees of bad fortune in the race (Indy Five looked a likely winner for Pat Doyle and Derek O’Connor). For the moment we will concentrate on Battle Of Clontarf and use him as a Viking axe to slay the bookmakers in time. He hasn’t got the greatest pedigree – in truth, it’s very poor and he changed hands last year for just €2,400 – and I would have more confidence in the trainer than the page at this stage. I will probably only stick with Battle Of Clontarf  if he remains with Purcell but signs are that he may be sold. Incidentally, the trainer was very bullish about his horses after this race and they may be worthy of close inspection over the coming weeks. They were under a cloud earlier in the year and may be attractively-priced as a result. Point-to-point trainer-form often transfers to the track and the victory of Colin Bowe’s Little King Robin in a Grade Two hurdle at Down Royal recently is a case in point-he lies second in the handlers’ list with three winners. Update: I attended a point-to-point yesterday (Sunday 2-Nov) and Kieran Purcell had a double on the card so keep an eye out for his track performers over the coming weeks.


5yo maiden: 

The Chuckmeister – g by Germany (John Berry)

The final offering from this busy weekend is trained by one of the most famous names from the point-to-point scene in Ireland. John Berry’s uncle, Padge, was the training king-pin of the game a few decades ago and John himself was three-time winner of the leading rider award over twenty years ago and has been training pointers and racehorses for twenty five years. His greatest success under Rules came with a former pointer, Cootamundra, in 2013 when he scored in the Troytown Handicap Chase.

Of the five previous winners I tracked from this maiden since 2010 it is notable that only two crossed the Irish Sea to join Evan Williams (De Faoithes Dream) and Donald McCain (Abbey Storm) and both were winners with the remaining three failing to progress so the hint should be taken if he is sold to take the boat in a few weeks’ time. I wouldn’t give up on him if Berry retains him to train himself and he would be a longer term project when handicapped based on past experiences. The Chuckmeister (RPR 87) has a half-brother who won points in the UK and his mother is related to two winners (middle-distance scorers) out of a half-sister to the Scottish National winner Moorcroft Boy.

I am pretty familiar with The Chuckmeister’s sire Germany – already responsible for Captain Cee Bee and Faugheen – in that a friend of mine decided to sell a 3yo gelded son of his (the first foal of a mare that won for me on the track) rather than race the progeny and this horse subsequently sold to Willie Mullins for £100,000 after finishing second on its sole pointing start at four. My friend still feels the pain!

Horses To Follow: 

Shantou Village 

Shanroe Santos 

Mr Mountain 

Crosshue Boy 

Battle Of Clontarf 

The Chuckmeister






Irish Point Notes, Week 3

An Irish Point-to-Point. [Image: flickr]

An Irish Point-to-Point. [Image: flickr]

Week ending 19 October 2014: Action from Lougbrickland, Co. Down 

by Seattle Dancer

This meeting seems to have suffered intermittently from adverse weather conditions in the past and since 2008 (7 years) there have only been two previous renewals of this autumn fixture with blank years from 2011-2013 entirely.

4yo maiden:

When last run in 2010 this race produced the three-time Philip Hobbs’ winner Ballytober who was purchased by Diana Whateley for £85,000 and is still going strong. The only other winner, Mention Me (from 2009), was a sound investment for handler Ashleigh Murphy but her £50,000 seller had many health issues for his subsequent trainer Clive Bennett and only made one track appearance in 2012. On this flimsy evidence alone one could ordinarily expect this year’s winner Lovely Job – trained successfully by Wexford handler Donnchadh Doyle – to fetch decent money and move to the UK in November following the Brightwells sale but subject to my reservations outlined below.

The purist (read, old fogey) may tell you that point-to-points have lost some of their amateur charm and lustre in recent times and have been substantially transformed into commercial ventures for selling on four- and five-year-old maidens and, in all honesty, there is a substantial ring of truth to this. Donnchadh Doyle would be a prime examplar of the old fogey’s assertion in that from 15 winners he trained last season 8 were 4yo’s and he also had a single 5yo success albeit with a “failed” 4yo i.e. took six attempts before he managed to win and become modestly sale-able.

Doyle’s best-sellers last year were Aqua Dude who has joined Evan Williams (€150,000 sale), Pylonthepressure – now with Willie Mullins – and Classic Place a very impressive maiden winner who has a new home but hasn’t appeared under a new training name as yet. Doyle is only training pointers since 2011 and a very successful commercial venture he is now running. Lucinda Russell and Donald McCain are also buyers of his stock and Island Heights and Uppertown Cave have already scored under rules for both in 2014.

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Lovely Job received a rating of 87 for this performance – the average rating dished out to 4yo’s this season so far is 87.5 - and he seemed to travel nicely before taking up the running going to the last fence from whence there is a nice downhill run home. He will almost certainly be offered for sale at Brightwells in November although his pedigree will not be jumping off the page. He is only the second winner the dam has produced from at least 10 foals so Lovely Job is just a half-brother to a Beneficial mare who landed a very modest 2m2f handicap hurdle at Downpatrick in 2007.

There will also be serious questions asked about his sire as he is the first winner for the rookie stallion Touch Of Land (first crop from the Co. Kilkenny Knockhouse Stud’s stallion are now 5yo’s) and he has not been setting the world alight with his early runners albeit it is early days yet. It will be very interesting to see if he changes hand, how much he will make and who will take a chance on the relatively weak page. Such are the variables in this wonderful game.


5yo maiden

Robin Des Champs is well-known as a sire of very decent jumpers and, since coming to prominence in the British Isles a number of years ago, his best performers have been virtually monopolised by Willie Mullins with Sir Des Champs, Quevega, Vatour, Sous Les Cieux and Un Atout being among the best known. Robin Des Champs was purchased from France in 2009 and now stands on Rathbarry’s national hunt roster at Glenview Stud. Unhappily, he is a stallion now synonymous with sub-fertility and if you are sending your mare to produce a potential future champion then it’s 3/1 the field with only a reported 25% success rate in the breeding shed.

Ian Ferguson paid €32,000 to Rathbarry in 2012 to acquire then then 3yo son of Robin Des Champs, Kerisper, on behalf of Wilson Dennison who is synonymous with point-to-pointing in the North of Ireland and has been a tremendous supporter for many years and many of the point maidens in the “six counties” are sponsored by his motor business. His main trainer for a number of years has been Colin McKeever and the partnership regularly churns out young maiden winners that are virtually all sold on immediately. In reviewing the duo’s successes over the past four years it is notable that Willie Mullins (possibly via the Harold Kirk Northern Ireland connestion) has been a strong supporter with Balnaslow, Briar Hill and Unic De Bersy all being very decent track performers.

In more recent times Nigel Twiston-Davies privately acquired both Blaklion (four from four) and Brownville so if the Dennison winners end up in good billets following a maiden win it should be very strongly noted. The winners have not tended to be highly rated when collecting their maidens (median mark is 86-87) but they do progress in general. The highest ever winner was from last season and he is Horsehill – a winner at Loughanmore last April and rated 90 – who has now joined Oliver Sherwood at a cost of £45,000 for whom he has yet to race.

Kerisper won this maiden impressively (Derek O’Connor was complimentary about him in his Racing post column) and has been given a rating of 89, the highest so far this season for a winning 5yo. He seems to possess a nice pedigree as the French-bred’s dam was a winner over 2m2f who in turn is a full-sister to a winner and is out of a winner!

The last time this maiden was run it was divided in 2010 and produced two very modestly-rated winners in Traffic Chaos (a maiden hurdle winner for Charlie Mann who cost him just £6,000) and Venetia Williams’ Rocky Bender who wasn’t seen for two years and has been placed six times in handicaps after his injury-delayed setbacks.

My guess is that Kerisper will be joining a strong stable following the Cheltenham sale in three weeks’ time and will continue the good recent record of Dennison/McKeever.


Horses To Follow: 

Lovely Job 





Irish Point Notes: Week 2

An Irish Point-to-Point. [Image: flickr]

An Irish Point-to-Point. [Image: flickr]

Written by Seattle Dancer

Week ending 12 October 2014: Action from Loughrea and Tinahely

One of the few older horses to catch my eye last season was triggered by the arresting comment of his unheralded trainer that he had a very bright future and was a possible future winner of the Foxhunters. Aintree is not a possible interpretation as the Foxhunters venue in these circumstances.

The horse is Need To Know (a 6yo gelding by Definite Article out of a four-time winning mare) and the trainer is Wexford-based John Paul Brennan (a former Jim Bolger pupil) who has been very sweet on this horse since his maiden win in his home county (Ballinaboola) last January. He followed this up with a Winners-of-One victory in Tinahely in March and he thereafter became expensive for me! Brennan has been a reliable source of modest young winning stock for a few years (no standout rules representative from the sales ring in the past few years) so the Need To Know project will be causing plenty of anxious moments at home as he is carrying a lot of latent hopes (from blood, sweat and tears).

Following his “winners” success Brennan subsequently sent him hunter chasing on five occasions between April and June this year and they yielded two fourth placings and one third. He was solid in the market on every occasion, ran reasonably well but perhaps showed that he still has a level of maturing to do. He was given an early re-introduction this season last Sunday, again at Tinahely, and managed to upset a long odds-on favourite (and one of last season’s leading lights in p-2-p Open events) when scoring in the feature race of the day on very good ground and seems to travel on everything but extreme conditions. The stardust was again being sprinkled in the aftermath of Sunday’s race and whereas I do believe in racing dreams coming true I will be following this horse faithfully once he returns to the track at less salubrious venues than Cheltenham.

To the best of my knowledge Foxhunter qualification requires two Open or Hunter Chase victories in the same season so Need To Know is probably half-way to the Cotswolds at this stage, probably about 70 miles south-west of Angelsey on the Irish Sea.


4yo maiden Tinahely

Last week’s nomination, Jack Steel, got an early boost when fourth-placed Gingili (6L in arrears of Jack Steel), trained by Colin Bowe, scored in a close contest in the 4yo maiden. This merely reinforces my faith in Jack Steel and in a double coincidence during my week I happened to run into Jack Steel’s gregarious trainer, Martin Hassett, and the following day I got to chat with the owner of the Pat Doyle-trained Fact Of The Matter winner of the 4yo maiden at Loughrea last Sunday.

Hassett was thrilled with the performance of Jack Steel and confirmed that he had been working exceptionally well prior to Castletown-Geoghegan. One report I read suggested the horse had completed another circuit of the track prior to being pulled up and this was confirmed and explained by the fact that he was passed by a riderless horse shortly after the winning post which brought out his competitive streak. Interestingly, the horse is bound for the Brightwells Cheltenham sale in November and his connections are slightly concerned that the Craigsteel “unfashionable” sire-line might detract from his value such is the high regard in which they hold him. When I informed him that Donald McCain and Jonjo O’Neill are recent supporters of the stallion with acquisitions costing €30,000, £40,000 and £45,000 from the pointing field last spring it should give them a fighting chance of a decent payday. Hassett seems confident that the horse will have the toe to win a bumper and provide a deal of enjoyment to his next owner. Good luck to all concerned.

In another story from the same trainer’s yard that would take too much telling a shorter version is that Hassett has charge of the ex-Ballydoyle invalid Master Speaker who in my opinion is due a decent flat race over five or six furlongs some time soon. I hope I may be forgiven in suggesting that they may have been campaigning him a little too honestly this year but his form in good quality sprinting races bears close scrutiny and perhaps heavy ground conditions (beloved by his sire) or a trip to the all-weather will see him reward their patience. (He finished a close up sixth at Cork this weekend and probably needs to drop 10-12lbs now).

I am not putting my main future faith in Gingili ** from this contest but rather in the second-placed Beneficial gelding Tiger Sam (rated 86) purely on the basis that he is trained by Noel Meade making a rare foray into the pointing field with a young horse. In researching Meade’s previous pointing exploits with a 4yo I lighted upon Corbally Ghost who also finished second on his only start in a point at Lismore (a track with a good reputation) in March 2011. A run in a bumper that same spring behind the mighty Simonsig saw him put away until the following autumn when he collected a bumper and two hurdles in quick succession. As you would expect of any horse from these quarters Tiger Sam has a very likeable pedigree and his two half-brothers Macgeorge (won 14 staying chases) and Chief Dan George (won Aintree’s top novice hurdling prize in 2007 and 8 other races) have plenty of quality. My one concern is that Tiger Sam’s dam (a half-sister to an Irish Champion hurdler in Deep Idol) was all of 24 when he was born but let’s not be ageist! If Tiger Sam can follow in the footsteps of Corbally Ghost or his illustrious half-brothers we should all be happy.

** In an attempt to keep my list at manageable proportions I will try not to recommend too many horses to follow although one is always concerned that future winners are discarded on a whim. Gingili’s (rated 88) rather strong case for support is aided simply by the fact that six of the last seven winners of this contest have all tasted success at some stage under rules with Tammys Hill (7 wins including the 2014 Cheltenham Foxhunters), Lough Derg Way (four-time winner for Jamie Snowden) and Dawn Commander (six-time winner and has been a credit recently to Renee Robeson ) being the most prominent. Coincidentally, the afore-mentioned John Paul Brennan (Need To Know) trained Four Shuck Men to win a division in 2012 and this subsequent £42,000 purchase won a bumper on his first start for Tim Vaughan.

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Gingili, as I mentioned above, improved from his seasonal start behind Jack Steel to score here and was immediately nominated for sale which is no surprise as he is owned by winning trainer Colin Bowe’s head lad. This is probably as useful way to keep your staff happy with such intangible bonuses that can quickly become tangible and someone else pays!

Gingili (GB-bred by Beat All) seems to have been bought privately at Doncaster as a 3yo after he failed to sell in the ring and chances are that he will now make a multiple of his unsold price of £14,000. He’s out of a three-time winning Generous mare who scored twice over hurdles for Donald McCain (she was bred to be a flat mare and has some salubrious relations such as Ascot Gold Cup winner Celeriac) and it will be very interesting to see if McCain buys Gingili because he originally bought his dam (Gentian) because she was related to a mare (Calomeria) who won a Wensleydale (Listed Juvenile Novice Hurdle run at Haydock) for him in 2004 and threatened to be very good for a while.

If Gilgili’s sire, Beat All, were a footballer he would be a journeyman as he has spent his time at three different studs in his lifetime and is steady and reliable cover at a certain modest price range. His record with winning 4yo pointing maidens offers some conditional hope in that his best two graduates in the past, Jarob and Mr Tingle, sold very well at public auction following their maiden victories and went on two win two races each under rules. I would suggest that this will probably be the case with Gingili i.e. he will sell for £40,000+ at public auction, join a leading trainer and will win his share of races. I would also venture that good ground will be required for his stock to show their best form.


5yo maiden Tinahely

A somewhat common theme from the maidens I have been analysing here in the past two weeks is the relatively surprising number of early autumn contests run over the past five to six years that have produced winners who regularly transfer their flag-work to track-work when they graduate to the racecourse. (Pointing can sometime be referred to as racing “between the flags” due to flag markers replacing fixed rails in many instances.) I believe this occurrence is largely explained by commercial reasons in that trainers of four-year-olds are desperate to grab an opportunity to sell a “young” winning horse in the pre-Christmas sales (predominantly Brightwells-Cheltenham and Doncaster-Newbury) and they will be trying to make up for lost time if their charges, for whatever reason, missed a winning opportunity earlier that spring. Similarly, an unexposed national hunt horse aged five is a far more appealing prospect to most owners/agents than one aged six or older and this can have dramatic economic consequences in the sales ring-the ultimate arbiter of “fashion”.

Tinahely’s 5yo maiden is no different and since 2010 has produced four winning recruits from five divisions with Nigel Twiston-Davies five-time winner According To Trev being easily the best. The other winners are more modest performers although three of the four winners all won on their very next appearance.

This year’s winner is Colin Bowe’s Black Jack Rover (by Vinnie Roe) who was bringing up a double for his handler on the day. This horse failed to sell for just €600 as a yearling but that was before his half-brother, Kilgefin Star, managed to win two hurdles for Northumberland-based Michael Smith and it now looks a stroke of good luck for his owner/breeder. My guess is that Black Jack Rover will be good enough to win at his grade in the UK and just might manage to keep up the reasonable bumper-winning record of previous winners from this race.


4yo maiden Loughrea

Sam Waley-Cohen is what I would consider the leading example of a perfect lifestyle many in Ireland discovered many decades ago namely, combining the ownership of racehorses with the Corinthian spirit involved in riding them competitively and all the while keeping down a full-time job to keep the show on the road. The top Ballydoyle vet, John Halley, is probably a version of Ireland’s foremost example of this and his opposite number across the pond might currently be John Ferguson. Halley combines one of the most interesting and demanding jobs in racing with running a point-to-point yard (with the occasional runner under Rules) and his success over the years is surely matched by the satisfaction achieved. Producing Noel Meade’s Pandorama in his early days was his most successful training achievement to date.

This all brings me to Gerry Spain who combines a career as a pharmacist with riding out for Pat Doyle in Tipperary and investing (wisely) in promising young maidens (sounds like a medieval bodice-ripper tale) for sale to Britain. Spain broke his duck in points as a jockey some years ago on the ex-Paul Nolan French Accordion and is hoping that another ex-Nolan horse Noble Prince might work the oracle for him in Open events this season. Pat Doyle should need no introduction as he is tasked (along with Gordon Elliott) with educating the young Gigginstown 4yo’s and a fine job he makes of it.

From a punting perspective I am interested in the Spain/Doyle winning maidens and prior to Fact Of the Matter winning impressively on Sunday their only two previous investments – both 4yo maiden winners - had been Measure Of My Dreams (now starring for Willie Mullins) and Throthethatch who has joined Lucinda Russell and “probably needs good ground” to be seen at his best after disappointing in an Ayr heavy-ground bumper on his only start to date. These two investments have returned a tasty profit and that will no doubt be augmented by the proceeds from Fact Of The Matter who is also likely to sell at Brightwells next month. When I met him earlier, Spain explained that they were very tempted to run in a bumper rather than going the pointing route and that he gives the feel of a genuine track performer with plenty of speed.

This maiden, prior to 2012, was nothing to write home about but Ted Walsh’s prolific winner Foxrock (beaten favourite in this year’s Cheltenham four-miler) and the ill-fated bumper winner Uppertown Cave from last season– trained by Donald McCain – have given the race a better recent complexion.

There is one concern that attaches to this horse and that is his sire Brian Boru. A Coolmore luminary at one time he was recently demoted to stud duties in Wales and although the sire managed the feat of siring the first three home in this bumper Brian Boru has been a disappointment at stud and that will probably depress his potential value. For a stallion that would have covered literally hundreds of mares from his time in Coolmore’s Grange Stud it does seem remarkable that he has only sired three previous 4yo maiden point winners prior to Fact Of The Matter. Only two of these are worthy of comment: On Your Eoin was subsequently bought by Gigginstown for £55,000 and has yet to win for Noel Meade whereas Billy Twyford joined Nicky Henderson for £30,000 and following a bumper win joined Lawney Hill where he has won three handicap hurdles.

Fact Of The Matter is unlikely to set the sales ring alight next month but if their respective connections are correct both Jack Steel and Fact Of The Matter should be winning under Rules before long.


5yo maiden Loughrea

This maiden has produced three top-drawer winners (from 5 contests) in just the last four seasons headed by Cheltenham winner Brindisi Breeze so it’s right up there for potential-Just A Par (P Nicholls) and Master Of The Game (N Henderson) also deserve the utmost respect. However, I just don’t like the profile of this year’s winner Teds Island (very cheap foal) who took four runs to get his head in front and his handler, John Martin Walsh, has not tended to produce anything of note over a number of years.


Horses To Follow: 

Need To Know

Tiger Sam


Fact Of The Matter

Black Jack Rover


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