IT has already proven to be quite the season for Mikey O’Connor. In mid-January he recorded his 500th success between point-to-points and the track when winning a maiden hunter chase aboard Grange Island in Clonmel.

Fast forward just over two months and fittingly on home turf in Liscarroll, the victory of Quarry Rocco brought his career tally in the point-to-point fields to 414 and propelled him into fifth position on the all-time leaderboard of the most successful riders’ in the sport’s history.

The successes have not stopped since then with an Easter victory aboard Loughaneala Og in Ballyknock his 12th success of the campaign and continuing what could be classed as a real resurgence for the weigh-tent stalwart.

This season’s triumphs have seen him move back into double-figure winners for a single season for the first time since 2014, and with all 12 of those successes this season coming within the southern region, he is bang in contention for a fourth title in the region.

It is 10 years since the last of his title triumphs, but with just nine fixtures remaining in the region he is right in contention for title number four.

Southern title

O’Connor is one of four riders who head into the final weeks of the season separated by three winners in their quest to secure the southern title.

Chris O’Donovan’s association with the Declan Queally stable has proven to be particularly lucrative this season and it is the Mallow native who currently tops the southern table as he bids to gain a first regional title, seven years after he was the champion under-21 rider.

O’Donovan’s 14 successes in the region, leaves him one win ahead of the former 10-time southern champion Derek O’Connor, who has a 35% strike rate in the region this season.

Mikey O’Connor is one further win behind, while John Barry is also in contention on 11 winners, thanks in part to a real purple patch in recent weeks.

The prospect of the two O’Connors in particular being involved in a shake-up for the southern title is quite a throwback for point-to-point followers.

In no fewer than seven of the eight years between 2007 and 2014 the pair filled the first two positions in that leaderboard, with just a single winner separating them in a memorable 2008 campaign.

It’s certainly all to play for over the coming weeks.

Large entries combine with well-supported fixtures

THE Easter weekend remains a focal point of the season, a fact borne out by the bumper entries, particularly in the younger age maidens, that were received for last weekend’s fixtures.

Encouragingly, those large entries were matched by strong attendances across the weekend to continue a trend from recent weeks and months which have seen fixtures well supported. This has to bode well for the sport.

The County Clare Hunt hosted another jam-packed day at Quakerstown last Sunday with an afternoon that included a trade and food market, face painting, pony rides, a dog show, bonny baby competition and terrier racing to compliment the on-track action.

The committees putting in these additional efforts are certainly being well rewarded with what often do not have to be overly elaborate activities.

Last month, Liscarroll attracted its customary bumper crowd, aided by running a local art competition within the locality.

Children from six local primary schools submitted in excess of 700 pieces of artwork for judging prior to the race day. The 75 winners each received a complimentary family admission pass to the races, where their winning exhibits were displayed in a marquee. A goodway to ensure 75 families turned up!

This weekend’s programme of fixtures has been reduced by one with the INHSC confirming that the North Tralee fixture at Tralee, which was scheduled for this Saturday, has been cancelled after the track was found to be unfit for racing due to ground conditions.

The Tralee cancellation formed part of a number of amendments that have been made to the fixture list for the coming weeks.

The Stonehall fixture at Ballysteen, which was scheduled for Sunday, April 23rd, has been abandoned, while there was better news for the Newry committee.

Their original fixture at Taylorstwn, which had been due to take place on April 1st had to be cancelled due to ground conditions. They have now been given a new date of Saturday, May 13th, which will become the final fixture in the northern region.

Remaining in the north, the Mid Antrim fixture which now takes place on Monday, May 8th, will be staged at Toomebridge and not Broughshane as had been scheduled, while the upcoming fixture in Necarne next Saturday, April 22nd, will now commence at the earlier time of 2pm and not 4.30pm.

Point-to-Point Ratings

Jasmin jumps

into the big time?

LOUGHANMORE has a long-established track record of producing smart subsequent graded winners, and their Easter Saturday fixture looked to uphold that reputation with a number of maidens that appeared to be deep in quality.

Stuart Crawford dominated the second division of the four-year-old geldings’ race with his Jasmin De Vaux (93++), and once Into The Park departed at the last, he could be eased down on the run-in to defeat his stablemate and he certainly looks capable of achieving an awful lot more on the evidence of this initial effort. He looks particularly exciting.

The always prominent I Play County (94+) got the better of a protracted battle with Clondaw Royale which saw the pair go at it from the end of the back straight. They pulled some way clear of their rivals and both look above average.

In the mares’ equivalent Geturguccion had travelled strongly throughout, but as she faded before the last, it was Star Of Hoiho (85+) who stepped up from her Lingstown debut to lengthen clear emphatically under hands and heels.

This was the latest recent form boost for that March maiden in Lingstown which is certainly proving to be a race to follow.

Notable pedigrees

There were many notable pedigrees on offer at Quakerstown, such that the average price from the store sales of the field in the four-year-old maiden stood at over €57,000.

However, price is no guarantee of success and it was the cheapest of those store purchases that prevailed as Slieve Carran (91+) vindicated the promise of his fourth at Lisronagh by taking advantage of serious blunders by the horses that had had sat in front of him at the last.

Eleven of the 12 starters completed at Curraghmore, and Kingston Pride (92+) had to be tough here as he could have given away victory when steadying notably into the final fence. But to his credit, he proved there was more in the tank by picking up again to win going away on debut. He clearly stays strongly.