THE new year has brought some hope that a solution to the ongoing insurance crisis can be found, with last Sunday’s article in The Irish Field following on from the decidedly optimistic tone that David Lalor, Chairman of the Irish Master of Foxhounds Association (IMFHA), struck when appearing on the Nick Luck Daily podcast on December 30th.

Confirmation that a long-awaited breakthrough has been made will be met with great relief from right across the sector if the optimism around this proposal comes to fruition.

The timing around striking such a deal will be critical. Tomorrow’s fixture at Tinahely is the first of three meetings from the month of January to have been cancelled due to a lack of insurance cover.

A similar fate has befallen the fixtures at Ballycrystal and Cragmore on the two following Sunday’s, and much attention will now centre on whether a deal can be brought in to avoid a great level of disruption to the February programme.

Positively, the January losses have been offset slightly by the addition of a fixture at Turtulla on Sunday January 16th which leaves a total of seven fixtures for the month, which would be just one fewer than took place in 2020.

HRI budget

On a related note, the publication of the Horse Racing Ireland budget for 2022 has brought some welcome news for hunt committee’s with the confirmation that the temporary €1,000 Covid-19 grant is set to continue into 2022.

It will be retained in recognition of the difficulties experienced by organisers with insurance.

Collectively, this increases the total HRI funding to point-to-pointing to a record level of €2.5 million, a welcome development in the midst of what could be a third consecutive season of disruption.

Ferny and Brave star in big Christmas for former pointers

AWAY from the uncertainty, point-to-point graduates once again came to the fore over the busy Christmas racing period including a haul of 28 victories in a single afternoon on St. Stephen’s Day.

Within that mammoth total were the Grade 1 victories of exciting novice chasers Ferny Hollow and Bravemansgame, which proved to be just two of five top-level successes for former Irish point-to-pointers during the Christmas – New Year week.

They were followed by a sixth Grade 1 success for Envoi Allen, while Fury Road and Ginto became first-time Grade 1 scorers at Leopardstown and Naas respectively.

Overall the month of December also saw six further Grade 2 victories, two in Grade 3 company in addition to three listed successes, as ex-Irish pointers won a total of 177 races throughout the month.

Aside from the equine stars, the Christmas period also brought a number of headline moments for many closely associated with pointing.


James Conheady may not have ridden in the point-to-point fields since his Fineline failed to complete at his local Quakerstown fixture in April 2019, however the Co. Clare native created one of the most notable moments over Christmas.

His enterprising front-running ride aboard homebred An Forghas at Limerick saw them race clear of their field before seeming to be reeled in on the home bend, only for the 125/1 shot to pick-up again and record what might have seemed a most unlikely success.

After such a successful return to the track this year for the 40-year-old, maybe he will have something else lined up by the time Quakerstown comes back around again on Easter Sunday.

There was also a first racecourse success for trainer Ellen Doyle when Howyabud, who had finished second at Monksgrange back in September, ran out a 25/1 winner of a maiden hurdle at Leopardstown.

The Coolgarrow native has already sent out six winners this term with her brother James under the Baltimore Stables banner, and fittingly their initial track victory was partnered to success by Carlow jockey Jack Foley.

The 22-year-old is one of a number of former point-to-point riders to have enjoyed a breakthrough 2021 on the track, and it was for the Doyle siblings that he recorded his first ever winner when Acceptable Risk won an older maiden at Lingstown in November 2019.

The 22/1 success of Dorking Cock in the Down Royal Hunter Chase was also a first racecourse victory over jumps for the northern-based Galwegian Stephen Connor following three previous victories in bumpers, while Ben Harvey came close to pulling off one of the most high-profile Christmas victories in the Paddy Power Chase.

The 2020 joint-champion under-21 rider had jumped the final fence in front aboard the Chris Jones-owned Ben Dundee in the €200,000 contest, only to be cruelly denied a famous victory in the dying strides.

The 21-year-old, who rode Bob Olinger to win his maiden at Turtulla, has certainly enjoyed good fortunes when putting on Jones’s colours, having partnered both Mala Beach and Space Cadet to win novice rider opens at the start of his career, a connection which has continued to include an Ulster National victory on the latter.

Point-To-Point Ratings

Dessert Fortune set for bright future

LAST month’s first visit to Ballindenisk unearthed some star youngsters, and the season’s second visit to the Co. Cork venue threw up further eye-catchers, including the mare Desert Fortune (83++).

She only went down by the narrowest of margins on her debut at Boulta last month and so was understandably sent off an odds-on favourite. The performance that she delivered here more than matched her starting price as she was always in command, responding immediately to put the race to bed when asked to lengthen after the penultimate fence, and she looks to be yet another smart winning mare this season.

Her dominance was arguably matched by Red Dirt Road (92++) in the following geldings’ equivalent. His debut saw him positioned to the fore throughout, and he was in complete control from the foot of the climb to the second last, becoming the latest in a long line of exciting youngsters to win a maiden in the Walter Connors colours.

Pass back

The open saw a welcome return to the winner’s enclosure of It Came To Pass (104) in a race where just over three lengths covering the first five finishers, while the older maiden division may have been bolstered by the addition of the latest crop of newly-turned six-year-olds.

Here Just A Dime (88+), who once chased home Brandy Love in a four-year-old maiden, overcame a lengthy absence to win in the manner of a horse back to his early promise and is certainly worth following into winners’ company.