BARRY O’NEILL has got this season off to a flyer, recording a sensational 18 winners thus far, with 11 of them coming from the northern region with a 50% strike rate. O’Neill recorded a treble in the last three races at Necarne on Saturday.
Marronstown (4/5 - 5/4 favourite) initiated the O’Neill treble in the winners-of-two oozing with class to record a facile victory for his new connections, the Castlehume Syndicate.
Acquired by local Fermanagh trainer David Christie for £35,000 at the Tattersalls Cheltenham sales in March, the son of Frozen Fire came into the event with a big reputation.
Last seen when winning a maiden at Farmaclaffrey in February for Stuart Crawford when beating Gordon Elliott’s useful An Mhi, Christie’s charge dictated here from start to finish.
Jumping with fluency and accuracy, he really stamped his authority the race, both justifying his price tag and looking a force to be reckoned with this season.
“He came recommended from Stuart Crawford and we knew he was good coming here today. He jumped very well, and I was never under pressure at any stage,” O’Neill said.
“He picked up well and had the race won well before the last. I’m delighted for the syndicate owners, and they will have plenty more fun with this lad”.
It was former Grade 1 winner The Storyteller (1/2 - 4/5 favourite) who provided O’Neill with his second winner of the day.
The Gordon Elliott-trained 11-year-old maintained his unbeaten record in open company in effortless fashion to look a rejuvenated force.
The son of Shantou, owned by prominent owner Patricia Sloan, was able to take control of the race exiting out of the back straight. When O’Neill asked the gelding to extend, it was evident that he still has his gears, and he will prove a tough nut to crack in the open ranks this year.
“He was very good there, he picked up like a good horse when I asked him, and he did it very comfortably,” O’Neill said. “He showed his class here, he is a former Grade 1 winner and never missed a beat in the jumping department. He will continue on the open route until a hunter chase comes along for him.”
O’Neill’s treble was completed in the last, with Sizing Diamond (4/7 - 4/5 favourite) waltzing to success in the older maiden race.
Bringing very strong form into the race having finished an 11-length fourth to Colin Bowe’s Gunnery Officer on his debut, the market spoke in his favour and the punters were duly rewarded.
Never far off the pace, the Leon Tormey-owned gelding travelled like a good horse under a motionless O’Neill, and his jumping was a great asset, making ground in the air throughout.
The son of Recital looks very hard to oppose in winners-of-one company next time out and can climb the ranks with further improvement likely for the Tom Dreaper stable.
“He had the form coming into the race, and I was happy to chase the leader throughout. When he got to the front, he was tanking, and he was an easy ride throughout,” said O’Neill, leaving the Fermanagh venue with a treble.
O’Connor crosses border for first training winner
DEREK O’CONNOR may have no less than 1,200 winners and counting to his name as a rider, but he added a new string to his illustrious career when he sent out his first-ever runner as a handler as Southoftheborder (4/1 - 3/1) impressed in the four-year-old maiden to see off the persistent challenge of Mullys Choice to the line.
A €13,000 purchase at last year’s Goffs Land Rover sale, the son of Leading Light is owned by O’Connor’s wife Carol to complete a real family success for them, and the four-year-old is now set to be offered for sale.
“He did a lovely piece of work during the week and coming here today I thought he had a great chance,” said O’Connor on what was his eighth winner of the year as a rider.
“He won snugly there, and I was always holding the second, he will likely head to the sales after that.”
Kildare handler Ross O’Sullivan recorded his first win of the season in the pointing fields with a taking debut from Ah Whisht (7/2 - 4/1) in the mares’ Maiden. Colin Bowe’s Kayf Hope had looked tough to oppose on her Tattersalls second, however, this debutante daughter of Getaway, who is owned by Mary McCann, picked up very strongly from the home bend to serve it right up to the favourite.
Proving gutsy and honest, O’Sullivan’s mare showed great tenacity to get on top, as the pair drew clear of the third.
“Jumping fence to fence she was unbelievable; she never missed a beat,” winning rider Tom Harney said. “She found plenty and was always holding on. I’d say she will go to the sales now.”
OWNED and trained by Kevin Ross, El Rio (5/1 - 4/1) made all of the running in the five-year-old geldings’ maiden.
Pestered to the second last, the son of Elusive Pimpernel found that extra gear approaching the last as he built up a five-length advantage over Ballylinch on the run to the line.
“I knew once I give him a squeeze on the home turn and he picked up that I had the race won. He was impressive there and we think he is good,” winning rider Dara McGill said after what is his fourth winner of the season.
Horse To Follow
Global Attraction (D. Christie): was eye-catching given it was his first run since March for his new connections.
The penny seemed to drop late on, and he should improve markedly with this run under his belt.