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Irish point-to-point racing on point

June 9th, 2023 7:15 PM

By Southern Star Team

Irish point-to-point racing on point Image
Rosscarbery jockey Brian Hayes accepting a gift from Clonakilty point-to-point secretary Pádraig Ahern to mark Brian's great year, which included his first Cheltenham Festival winner. Included is Charlie Ahern.

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FOUR days after racing to victory around Leslie Beamish’s fields in the recent Clonakilty point-to-point meeting, Marcus Furius (Ireland) went under the hammer at the Goff’s sale in Doncaster, England, for €86,000. It proved, once again, that a four-year-old winning an Irish point-to-point race becomes a valuable commodity.

According to the Doncaster catalogue: ‘This son of Centaurian made a most impressive debut when running out a fourteen length winner of his maiden at Inchydoney on Sunday. Never too far from the pace, he had a perfect position from where to launch his challenge, and once hitting the front before three-out, he immediately put distance between himself and his rivals as he quickened clear well before the last for an easy victory. This was a decent winning debut. He looks a smart four-year-old that has plenty of likeable attributes and looks set to have a successful career under rules.’

The Inchydoney race committee, led by chairman James C Kenny, congratulated Harley Dunne Racing, Co Wexford and the other connections, and wished the purchasers Gerry Hogan Bloodstock and Paul Nolan Racing the best of luck with their winner of the McCarthy Green Build Construction Co Ltd and Tattersalls NH four-year-old Geldings Maiden at Inchydoney.

At a function in the Fernhill House Hotel last week for the races committee and helpers, there was satisfaction with the 2023 renewal, which occupied the prestigious position of hosting, along with Ballingarry in North Tipperary, the last day of the point-to-point season in Ireland.

This meant that the results at Inchydoney and Ballingarry determined many of the annual point-to-point awards which will be presented on June 10th in the Hotel Minella, Clonmel hosted by the Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Committee. Even the pre-eminent global stallion farm, Coolmore Stud, had their eyes on Inchydoney, where the first winner of the day, Chief Lady (Ireland), in the Dunmore House Hotel four-year-old Mares Maiden, was a daughter of Mahler, one of three winners at the weekend which sealed Mahler’s second Irish point-to-point champion sire title. Chief Lady is trained by Robert James in Co Wexford. 

Coolmore dominated the top of the sire leaderboard, with Mahler followed by his stablemates Getaway, Walk In The Park, and Soldier Of Fortune. Also at Inchydoney in search of a national annual title was lady rider Maxine O’Sullivan. From one of County Cork’s best known racing families at Lombardstown, Mallow, Maxine rode her first point-to-point winner in 2008. She was crowned (joint) ladies champion for the first time in 2010, and won the title outright in 2014. But winning the 2020 Cheltenham Festival Foxhunters Chase on It Came To Pass, for her father Eugene, has been her biggest success. Coming into the last day of the 2022-23 season, she had eight winners, and Moira McElligott had seven. Maxine needed Romeo Magico to win the Fernhill House Hotel and Gardens Winner Of One. They came with a late run, but were beaten half a length by the Padraig Butler (from Timoleague) trained mare Imperial Fox, which returned to a rapturous reception from the local crowd, because it is owned and bred by the Inchydoney track landowner Leslie Beamish.

Meanwhile, with Moira McElligott finishing fourth on her only mount at Ballingarry, Maxine O’Sullivan was the ladies champion for the season. Con McSweeney, Ballincollig, was the other successful County Cork trainer at Inchydoney, with Rebel Treaty in the Clonakilty Food Company 5yo+ Mares Maiden. Georgie Burgess in the Clogheen Homes Developments Ltd 5yo Geldings Maiden, was another County Wexford trained winner, for Michael Goff, confirming that the model county is now definitely the headquarters of Irish point-to-point racing. And topping them all is trainer Colin Bowe, Kiltealy, Enniscorthy, for whom Seattle Seahawk’s win in the Springmount Stud 6yo+ Geldings Maiden helped to match his personal best for a season of 46 winners, securing his 11th champion handler title. The committee’s star guest at Inchydoney was one of West Cork’s own. 

Brian Hayes from Rosscarbery got a warm welcome from the attendance at Beamish’s farm, as the committee made a presentation to mark his successful year, with his first Cheltenham Festival winner, on Impervious in the Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase, trained by Colm Murphy and owned by J P McManus. The combination followed up with victory in the Hanlon EBF Glencarraig Lady Mares Chase at the Punchestown Festival. The past season also saw Brian riding his first winner at Cheltenham, on Dads Lad in October. 

Brian has come a long way (and he says it has been a very enjoyable journey) since riding his first winner, aged 17, at the Clonakilty point-to-point races. The following year, he had his first victory on the track. Fast forward to 2023, and finishing the season with 23 winners, including eight for Colm Murphy and seven for Willie Mullins. Brian is now a leading Irish jockey, mostly based at the Willie Mullins yard.

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