BARRY O’Neill continued his excellent season in the northern region as a Kirkistown treble brought his tally of winners in the region to 14, a level of success that is enhanced by a notable 40% strike rate at northern venues this season.

Jhetong Enki, 7/4 favourite, initiated the O’Neill treble in the opening four-year-old maiden, as he produced a visually impressive performance to make a winning debut at his ease for handler and owner Colin Bowe.

The son of Buck’s Boum, who is from the family of Marcel Rolland’s former four-time French Grade 1 winner Questarabad, was acquired by Bowe for €48,000 at last year’s Goffs Land Rover Sale and undoubtedly went into plenty of notebooks after this decisive victory.

The French-bred bay jumped impeccably throughout, showing a blistering turn of foot approaching the home bend to kick clear from Where’s My Jet, winning by an eased-down six lengths.

“We always thought a lot of him, he has always shown us loads at home,” said Bowe after his 13th winner of the season. “His jumping is superb and it’s a major asset to him. He is a very sharp horse, and he has won very impressively out there. He looks the full package and will be for sale now. He will make his mark on the track.”

The three-time track winner and ex-Henry de Bromhead-trained Bold Enough (6/4 – 5/4 favourite) continued O’Neill’s fine afternoon in the saddle when striking on his open debut.

The son of Jeremy reached a peak rating of 143 under rules, with his last success coming in a Roscommon novice chase back in June 2021.

Now under the care of Fermanagh maestro David Christie, the eight-year-old sat off the pace and gave an exhibition of jumping throughout, putting the race to bed approaching the home bend when quickening under a hands and heels ride from O’Neill to defeat the former Gordon Elliott inmate Saint D’Oroux by an unextended two and a half lengths.

“It’s another great find from David [Christie]. The horse has shown a rejuvenation of his track form and he’s done it very well. They went such a fast pace in front, it worked out well for my lad,” O’Neill said while sporting the silks of prominent owner Ray Nicholas.

“I’d say we will go down the hunter chase route, I will ride him, and David will choose where he goes. He is a genius.”

It was the Tom Dreaper-trained Lar’s Lass (2/1 - 7/4 favourite) who concluded O’Neill’s treble in the mares’ winners of two event.

The well-supported ‘jolly’ brought the key piece of form to the race having beaten the subsequent two-time winner Gray Rock at Lingstown in November of last year.

O’Neill bounced into an advantage after fence five and oozed confidence aboard this daughter of Ocovango as he took a glance over his shoulder in search of dangers before the third-last fence.

A threat did emerge in the shape of Elusive Mae although she was unable to get any closer than two lengths to the winner on the home bend, with O’Neill only briefly having asked the mare to extend in front.

With the last bypassed, a shake of the reigns secured victory for the duo by an eased two and a half lengths.

“She has won very well out there, travelled like the winner throughout and she had the best form in the book coming into this,” O’Neill said of the Skelly family-owned mare.

BALLYNOE handler Brian Hamilton was on the scoreboard when Time Was produced a stylish performance to land the five and six-year-old mares’ maiden for owner Jeremy Maxwell.

The daughter of Court Cave, who is a relative of the eight-time winner Horus, was one of the leading market principals in this contest by virtue of her excellent narrow defeat to Grey Opportunity at Loughrea last March.

The former Emmet Mullins-trained mare made rapid progress to sit in a close third with three fences to jump, before moving through to take a share of the lead at the next and ultimately kicking into a clear advantage under a motionless Alex Harvey to defeat Time For Joy by nine lengths. “She had a very good run first time out and was unlucky to be beaten,” Harvey said. “Brian [Hamilton] is a shrewd operator and he had this mare in fine form today and it was only a matter of pushing the button down the back straight and she put the race to bed very quickly.”

Horse with a future

The Rob James-trained and ridden Check The Score (4/1 - 6/1) looks like a horse with a future as he decisively landed the five-year-old geldings’ maiden.

The €45,000 graduate of the 2021 Goffs Land Rover Sale was always to the fore from the drop of the flag and travelled with plenty of zest.

The Matchmaker Syndicate-owned gelding touched down in front from the second last with a slight advantage and, approaching the home bend, James looked to have plenty in reserve as the advantage widened.

With an eight-length cushion secured coming to the last, a slick jump sealed the victory, with nine lengths separating him from the runner-up, Kilkee Royal.

“He has jumped like a buck around there and he is only coming to himself now. He won with plenty up his sleeve. Hopefully, we will be for the sales next week now,” James said.

Shantou Show and Dara McGill show the way in older maiden

SEAN McParlan recorded his second winner of the season when sending out Shantou Show (9/2 - 7/2) to land the older maiden.

The son of Shantou always caught the eye in running under a confident Dara McGill and, having moved stylishly into contention on the outer of rivals approaching the home straight, he was faced with a persistent challenge from the determined Ballydesmond in the run-in. Closely related to Charles Byrnes’ Sea Light, Shantou Show was coaxed home by McGill, proving value for his one and a half-length winning distance and could now be sold.

Horse to Follow

Lady Firefox (R. Widger): The debutante daughter of Workforce attracted some shrewd market attention pre-race and was travelling ominously well before unshipping at the second last.