IN little over 24 hours’ time the new season of four-year-old maiden races will be underway.

The first weekend in February is an apprehensive time for owners and handlers. Vast sums were invested into new unraced talent at the previous year’s summer store sales and the subsequent seven months have seen their transformation into racehorses begin.

Yards right around the country have invested countless manhours into meticulously readying hundreds of recently-turned four-year-olds for their looming racing debuts.

The time has now come for their keepers to find out just what lies beneath the bonnet and it is all to play for.

These are big business races after all. Millions of euro will be traded on horses that prove themselves in the point-to-point sphere over the coming 15 weeks, but is not just the owners of these four-year-olds with much to win and lose on the outcome of younger age maidens.

Stud farms across the country will also be eagerly anticipating the results of four-year-old maiden races, because early success in the pointing sphere for a young stallion has the power to ignite their careers at stud, just as Workforce experienced last spring.

Immediate impact

The Knockhouse Stud resident had his first crop of four-year-olds since relocating from Japan hit the pointing fields 12 months ago and, from a small pool of runners, they made an immediate impact.

Denis Murphy was the first to introduce a son of the 2010 Epsom Derby winner when Givehimthehonour made a winning debut at Castlelands.

Just three more four-year-olds followed in the 2022 spring season but their impact was no less significant.

Largy Force similarly made a winning debut at Loughanmore for Stuart Crawford, Colin Bowe’s Southern Babylon was only beaten by a length at Stowlin, while Man At Work was sitting in third when falling at the final fence for Benny Walsh at Lingstown and has since won on his hurdling debut at Aintree having been sold for £155,000.

The results were seismic for Knockhouse Stud’s Sean Kinsella who explains the impact those initial four-year-old maiden performances had for the stallion’s popularity.

“This time last year he wasn’t very exciting, but after the first couple of four-year-old maiden winners we booked in 35 mares for him in the one day,” he said.

“The next day was the same. All we had to do was keep answering the phone, one of us on the house phone and the other on the mobile. Those things are made of dreams.”

Stock soaring

By the start of last season’s store sales, those early point-to-point results had sent his stock soaring. Two of his eight offspring that were offered at the Tattersalls Ireland May Store sale were among the sale’s top four lots having been snapped up by Bowe and Harley Dunne.

With the likes of Matthew Flynn O’Connor, Shane Fitzgerald, and the Orphan Girl Syndicate who have pointers with Liam Kenny among the other purchasers of his other offerings at that sale, the early signs were that those spring performances had won over many within the crucial point-to-point sphere.

“The point-to-point winners that he had really set him off. If you get the four-year-old maiden winner early then you are flying.

“In the present time, mares have got very small and Workforce has put a lot of size and power into them. Everyone wants this 16.2hh plus horse, anything below that is no good. That is the way that the market has gone – it is all market driven.

“Beneficial wouldn’t do today if he was alive. He was a lovely horse, but he a had a lot of bigger, more rugged mares that he was covering which suited him. Workforce is 16.3hh so he complements that handy mare.

“A small stallion presently is no real addition to any stud or, more so, breeders. That is how much it has changed.

“One example that I always give is that we have our stocks at home for doing the mares and the stocks had to be shortened by at least six inches to stand the mares for the vet to handle them. The mare has decreased in size, so you have to compensate for that with the stallion.

“The focus now is all about getting a horse for the point-to-point market, they need the size to jump fences at four or five, and to gallop three miles carrying around 12st in different ground conditions.

“There are four stallions that were mentioned at the sales this week as being the horses of the moment and thankfully Workforce was one of them. It is nice to have one of the talking horses.”

The master of Knockhouse Stud received a timely boost ahead of the second crop of his four-year-olds appearing in the coming weeks when Colin Bowe sent out Kinsella’s own Workahead to make an impressive winning debut at Cragmore last Sunday.

Now, just like Kinsella last year, stallion owners around the country eagerly turn to the pointing fields hoping that results in the coming months can also prove to be the platform to take their young stallions’ careers to the next level.

Ismael impresses with wide margin win

IT would be hard not to be impressed by the debut performance that Ismael (95++) produced with his spectacular wide-margin success at Ballyvodock.

The market prerace suggested big things were expected from the favourite given the short price that he opened up at for a 15-runner maiden that featured a number of proven form horses.

The Coastal Path gelding did not disappoint, coming home at his leisure with 24 lengths covering the first three finishers.

When you factor in that the horses who finished in second to fifth had all shown definite promise in recent months, it adds another layer of depth to the performance in a race that is likely to produce many future winners.


All three of the weekend’s winners within the five-year-old geldings’ maiden division enjoyed quite comfortable successes. Bective Abbey (88+) is horse that is not short of gears and he took full advantage of that at Tyrella under positive tactics to look a class apart from his rivals, whilst at Cragmore Workahead (92+) was left clear at the penultimate fence, and from there, had a notable debut victory sewn up.

Redzy Rocco (81+) had the form in the book and she backed-up her initial Dromahane effort by winning a well-run race where few were able to get involved.

She was strongly pressed at the penultimate fence, but gamely picked up again in challenging conditions to win going away at the line. She has a smart profile.