Plenty to celebrate as owners return at Listowel and Fairyhouse

Owners returned to Irish racecourses for the first time since the resumption of racing, at Fairyhouse and Listowel on Monday.

It was announced last week that, in line with new Irish Government guidelines which now permit racing and other outdoor sports to have a limited number of spectators, owners could be welcomed back.

Horse Racing Ireland had previously highlighted the return of owners as a top priority following the outbreak of Covid-19, with two people per horse initially allowed on course.

The feature event on day two of the Harvest Festival at Listowel was the 40,000 euro Liam Healy Memorial Lartigue Hurdle, which went the way of 25-1 shot Politicise for trainer Ado McGuinness and jockey Darragh O’Keeffe.

McGuinness’ assistant, Stephen Thorne, said: “That was a rare jumps winner for the team, and I’m delighted. We won this race back in 2004 with Victram, so a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then.

“I’m delighted for the Dooleys (owners), who teamed up with the Shamrock Thoroughbreds lads to co-own the horse, and my own family and close friends are involved.

“He is a lovely dual-purpose horse, and we will give him a break during the winter and go back novice chasing next year. We’ll look for a Flat pot with him next.”

Part-owner Darragh McDonagh expressed his delight at being in attendance to witness the success of the Eric McNamara-trained Blackjack Boy (11-2 joint-favourite) in the Adare Manor Opportunity Handicap Hurdle.

McDonagh said: “We come to Listowel every year and normally we come Thursday and go home on Sunday, but today is strange.

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“We went for lunch in Listowel and were considering staying down today if the horse won, so at least we have decisions to make!

“It is a strange atmosphere, but they are doing the best they can. We are all trying to do our bit to stay safe and we’re back racing, so we’ll take it.”

Le Figaro Faoudel was a shock 125-1 winner of the Connolly’s RED MILLS Irish EBF Auction Maiden Hurdle under Kevin Brouder.

Winning trainer Eoin McCarthy said: “He is a family horse, and my sister Sarah owns him; I convinced her to buy him at the sales two years ago, and he has broken my heart since we got him, with little niggles. However, he worked awfully well last week.

“We thought he’d run well today, and I might take him to the sales, but we’ll see.”

Top amateur Mark O’Hare announced he was retiring with a winner after 3-1 shot Jesse Evans prevailed by two and a half lengths in the closing Kerry Petroleum Flat Race for Noel Meade.

Among O’Hare’s biggest victories was Another Rum’s 40-1 success in the National Hunt Chase at the 2005 Cheltenham Festival.

He said: “I was going to quit at the end of last season – but then the whole Covid virus thing arrived, and I said I’d go for one more fix, and that is my final hit!

“It has been a pleasure riding for Noel, and he makes life easy in bumpers. He is a top trainer and a top man – and most likely I’d have retired earlier only for him.

“It has been a great career and great craic.

“The horse travelled the whole way and picked up lovely – he is a smart horse, and I was quite comfortable I would pass the leader and had plenty horse under me.”

Lady Princess returns to the Fairyhouse winner's enclosure
Lady Princess returns to the Fairyhouse winner’s enclosure (Gary Carson/PA)

The main event at Fairyhouse was the Listed Ballyhane Blenheim Stakes, which was won by Denis Hogan’s Lady Princess.

The 16-1 chance knuckled down for Joey Sheridan to get the better of New Treasure by a length and a quarter.

Sheridan said: “The race cut up, it wasn’t a big field, so we said we’d take our chance and see if we could nick a bit of black type.

“It’s worked out, and she’s a lovely filly. She’s always showed a lot at home.

“That’s my third Listed race of the year. Things are flying – hopefully it keeps up.”

On the return of owners, Fairyhouse’s general manager Peter Roe said: “It’s a great step. It’s the first tiny steps, and we hope we can keep going.

“It’s great just to get a bit of atmosphere back here again, and great to see their enthusiasm.

“They pay the bills, keep the show on the road, and it’s great to have them back.

“They’ve come back to a different experience than they left beforehand, but I think everyone here is just delighted to get going again – we hope we’ll be able to continue.”

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