It’s not often West Cork racing fans, both hardcore and casual, get to enjoy high quality fare in their own locality.
With Cork Racecourse (in Mallow) being the nearest venue for the sport at the highest level in the county, racing enthusiasts from our region can be forgiven for feeling hard done by.
But that’s where the point to point at Inchydoney comes in.
Held annually on the Beamish’s farm, just a stone's throw from the Inchydoney Island Lodge and Spa Hotel, the Carbery Hunt-organised Clonakilty Point to Point is Irish racing in its purest form.
— Jack McCarron (@JayBurgKK) May 26, 2019
For the uninitiated, point to point is essentially the grassroots of the sport. Held in a farmers field rather than a regular track, it’s where stars are born.
For racing aficionados, it’s a chance to see potential legends on the way up.
For local punters, it’s a chance to take on the bookies face to face.
For families, it’s just a chance to have some fun.
Balmy sunny Sunday
A Whole New World from Aladdin is the song choice of the Clonakilty brass band who provide the soundtrack on a balmy sunny Sunday in a location that could rival any in the world.
With a bottle of cider in one hand and my racecard in the other I go to place a bet.
The betting ring is thronged but business is slow according to the lady manning the pitch for bookmaker Michael Downing Racing.
It’s an entirely different story over at Sunny Ices Ice Cream van.
The queues there are translating to sales. Cash is exchanged at a rate usually reserved for the auction ring at Goffs.
One of those enjoying a 99 last Sunday was dual-Grand National winning rider Davy Russell, a product of the point to point scene.
‘It’s a fantastic venue,’ Davy says, cone in hand. ‘Credit has to go to the committee for the job they’ve done on the course. It’s a pleasure to be here.’
Russell, from Youghal, is a long-standing supporter and advocate of the point to point scene.
He’s with his family on Sunday, like countless others, and it’s easy to see why.
‘It’s the starting point for a lot of talented horses. It’s a great family day out - back to basics. Nothing fancy about it. You can have an ice cream, bring your dog, bring the kids, have a picnic and it’s nice to be able to support it.’
The importance of the event to the local racing community cannot be understated according to Richard Forristal, a Conakilty native and the Racing Post’s Ireland editor.
‘At its current venue, the point-to-point has established itself as a hugely popular social event within the community, and that provides local handlers like [Bandon’s] Rob Moloney with a shop window to show what they can do’.
In an unlikely turn of events, the horse I backed, Shattered Glass, wins the second race on the card by a nose.
When I collect my winnings it’s a ‘well-done’ and a ‘thanks’ from the bookmaker. Not something I’ve ever heard from one of the many faceless online betting corporations I usually give my business to.
There’s much more to a day at the Clonakilty Point to Point than just the racing and betting though.
If four-legged creatures of the equine variety aren’t your bag, the newly introduced dog show is on hand to keep K9 lovers entertained. No bookies are present at this event but the competition is just as fierce.
For someone attending their first Point to Point, this truly is a whole new world - and I’ll be coming back.