BARRY O’NEILL has enjoyed a flying start to the new season, riding eight winners thus far to produce an impressive 32% strike rate from his 25 mounts and he added the winners-of-two contest at Loughanmore to his tally courtesy of Ultimate Optimist (5/2 – 3/1).
Recently acquired by David Christie from Donnchadh Doyle’s Monbeg Stables after decisively winning an older maiden at Stowlin in May, the Athletic looking son of Fame And Glory was always positioned close to the pace.
After a slick jump three out, at the same time that the long-time leader Gorthill blundered, O’Neill took the initiative to send the Ray Nicholas and Dr. Sam Campbell-owned gelding into the lead two out, which saw him build-up a sizable advantage over the field.
A tidy jump at the last sealed a six-length victory in impressive fashion for a horse that looks set to climb the ranks this year.
“It was a very good race on paper,” O’Neill said of what was a poignant victory for the winning handler after his father James passed away on the eve of the fixture.
“Coming here to take on two race-fit horses, being this lads first run for David is a big performance. He is just an out-and-out stayer and is a horse to really look forward to this year.
“I am really delighted for the owners Ray and Sam, they are great supporters of the yard. He came recommended to us from Rob James who rode him at Stowlin, and I’m looking forward to getting back on him soon.”
Perhaps the most impressive performance of the day came from Ballyburn (7/2 - 5/1), the mount of Cormac Abernethy, in the four-year-old geldings’ maiden, a race sponsored by winning owner Wilson Dennison.
The newcomer son of Flemensfirth, a full brother to former Leopardstown Paddy Power Chase winner Noble Endeavor, was acquired by Ian Ferguson for €80,000 at Tattersalls in 2018, and he entered the race with a big reputation to fulfil.
Racing in mid-division throughout, Abernethy caught the eye travelling well to the second-last fence only to be badly hampered by a faller and lose a great deal of momentum in the process.
Coaxed back into the race patiently, the Beeches Stud-bred bay arrived back up the inside after the last before scooting away to an eased down victory.
“I am delighted with that,” winning handler Colin McKeever said. “The horses are running well, and this fellow was doing everything really well. The win was no surprise as he has been impressing us at home for a long time now. I really think he could be a graded horse.
“Like Tullyhill who won at Moira, we had this fellow ready to run in the spring, but the ground never came right for him. He is a real old fashioned staying chaser.”
Court Cave produced his third four-year-old winner already this season when Annabelle Magic (5/1 – 7/2 joint-favourite) took the opening four-year-old mares’ maiden.
Travelling with plenty of zest throughout under Rob James, the pair only briefly looked in trouble when making a bad mistake two out, but she quickly recovered to regain the lead and defeat Nt Field Minnesota by four lengths in the colours of the Monbeg Partnership.
“Rob rode her in a schooling race last week and said she was very good and we were very confident coming here today on the back of that,” Eamonn Doyle, brother of the winning handler said.
Mister Park gets off the Mark
TIPPERARY handler Ian Power got off the mark with a stylish performance from Mister Park (6/1 – 4/1) in the five-year-old geldings’ maiden for owner-breeder Tom Hayes.
The son of Walk In The Park led from pillar to post under James Hannon as he dictated from the head of affairs. The newcomer jumped and travelled well throughout, proving much too superior for his rivals, to record a four-and-a-half-length victory over Ballydesmond.
“This is a very sharp horse who will be very good in bumpers and over hurdles,” Power said. “I considered running him in a bumper myself as he is so sharp, but I also knew he would stay. He is very fast over his obstacles and that helped him there.”
Noel Kelly’s rich vein of form continued as My Girl Katie (5/2 – 7/4 favourite), who attracted significant market support in the betting ring, landed the five-year-old and upwards mares’ maiden.
Owned by Kelly’s wife Shauna, the Ocovango mare may only have been making her debut, however she stamped her authority on the race, proving too good under a confident Oran McGill to fend off the late challenge of Drumlees Pet by two lengths.
“We have always liked her as she had done a couple of good bits of work at home,” the winning rider said of his first winner of the season. “She maybe got racing a bit too soon, and she was green enough out in front, but I was always holding off Noel’s horse. I’d say she will be for sale now.”
NOEL McParlan recorded his third winner of the season when teaming up with his father Sean’s Drumlee Lake (9/4 – 3/1 joint-favourite) in the older maiden.
The Watar gelding was the form horse coming into the race, having posted a solid run when second to the useful winners-grade performer Tareeshar at Tyrella in March.
The Co Down rider never saw another rival until the final fence when the runner-up Gray Rock briefly loomed alongside, although the winner proved a different proposition on the run-in to prevail by seven lengths in the handler’s own colours and he could now be sold.
Horse To Follow
NT FIELD MINNESOTA (C. Bowe): this Flemensfirth mare jumped and travelled well and looks to have just bumped into a very smart prospect in Annabelle Magic. She should be a winner in waiting for owner Leo McArdle.