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.
Looking at UK runners only gives the following summary data:
Focusing on those to run under rules in Ireland, the figures are less compelling from a P/L perspective despite a solid strike rate.
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.
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)
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.
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)
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.
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)
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.
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.
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)
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.
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)
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).
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)
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.
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)
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.
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)
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.
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)
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.
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.