QUALITY was in abundance at last Saturday’s Farmacaffley meeting as a bumper crowd were in attendance to witness the latest fixture at what is one of the oldest point-to-point courses in the calendar having hosted racing since 1895.

The star attraction of the meeting came in the shape of Winged Leader (1/4 - 1/3 favourite) who was sent off at heavy odds-on to oblige on his second start of the season in the open.

The David Christie-trained son of Winged Love brought up the seventh open win of his career, and what a career it has been thus far.

Just touched off by Billaway in last year’s Festival Hunter Chase at Cheltenham, the John Hegarty and Jennifer O’Kane-owned gelding has been a star of the division in recent years.

Taking up the lead from four-out, the advantage grew from fence to fence, as he simply proved much superior to his opposition.


The lead was clear at the last, with a motionless O’Neill yet to ask the gelding to extend and an eased down 11 lengths separated him from Hear No Evil.

“They went a good gallop and the quicker the gallop, the better he is. At the minute, Vaucelet is more likely to go to Cheltenham, and perhaps the Aintree Foxhunters could be Winged Leader’s plan,” said David Christie Jr, on what was his father’s 10th winner this season.

Dara McGill just might be one of the best value 5lb claimers in Ireland, and his rich vein of form continued as he recorded an admirable double, bringing his tally to 12 winners this season thus far.

McGill’s brace was initiated by the Warren Ewing-owned and handled Intense Approach (7/1 - 8/1) who showed plenty of grit and determination to make all and stamp his authority on a decent looking field in the opening four-year-old maiden.

Pole position

The strapping son of the Irish Derby winner Jack Hobbs was always in pole position and travelled sweetly, and although his advantage was reduced coming to the last, the chesnut knuckled down to his task to see off the persistent challenge of the runner-up One More Stroke and oblige by one and a half lengths.

“He looked the full package, the way he jumped, travelled, and fought. He will make a lovely horse for the future, and he will now be bound for the sales,” said McGill.

It was handler Colin McKeever who provided McGill with his second winner of the day in the concluding older maiden courtesy of Ballylinch (5/1 - 4/1).

The son of Califet had posted some notable efforts to date, most eye-catching when second to the useful El Rio at Necarne last November.

Market support came again, as had been the case in each of his last three runs, with punters happy to give him another chance.

Likely winner

Making all under a canny McGill ride, the gelding always travelled and jumped like the most likely winner.

A persistent challenge came in the way of Clarabello who eyeballed the winner in the home straight, but Ballylinch had enough in reserve to find that extra gear, and a good jump at the last sealed a two-length victory.

“He is a good horse whose jumping has let him down on occasions, but we seem to have got that ironed out and he was gutsy out there today,” McKeever said of his sixth winner of the season in the famous Wilson Dennison silks.

Saint impresses for Quinn

GERALD QUINN’S Cadoudal Saint (6/1 - 9/2) impressed in the five-year-old geldings’ maiden. The son of Saint Des Saints was acquired as a foal at Tattersalls in 2018 by Ian Ferguson for €45,000 for prominent owner Philip McBurney.

Closely related to 10-time winner Madison Du Berlais, the gelding travelled ominously well throughout, tracking the leaders under a confident Noel McParlan.

The French-bred grey made rapid progress after two from home to dispute the lead and he looked the winner approaching the home straight. The winning move was made by McParlan when going for the inside around the home bend as he closed the gap on his challenger Imperial Saint to prevail by two lengths.

“Ger [Quinn] thought a lot of him, and he has backed that up here today. It looked a decent race, and he is a nice sort going forward,” McParlan said.

Influx of money

The market couldn’t separate them as the bookmakers chalked their boards, although the late influx of money was well-placed as Carrigeen Castle (2/1 - 7/4 favourite) dominated in the hunt race.

The Tom Dreaper-trained seven-year-old, always travelled like the winner under Barry O’Neill, and showing a useful change of gears to kick into a clear advantage after two out, he forged clear, with eight lengths the winning margin over Drumconnor Storm.

“He is a lovely hors, who has just had trouble,” Tom Dreaper said of the Claire Watson-owned winner. “We thought we had him in great form, and I thought if he got here in one piece, he would be very hard to beat.”

Crawford make a Statement

THE Stuart Crawford stable were in the winners’ enclosure as Brief Statement (9/2 - 11/2) posted a visually impressive display in the mares’ maiden.

One of four debutants in the race, the daughter of Flemensfirth always raced prominently under Ben Crawford, and although briefly losing the lead four from home, she was coaxed back onto the bridle by Crawford, before showing another gear to take up the lead again two from home.

Shooting clear

Quickening on the home bend and shooting clear, with the final fence the only thing between her and victory, she returned an eased down seven lengths clear of Ask Isabella.

Horse to Follow

Ask Isabella (S.R.B Crawford): The daughter of Ask was travelling ominously well before a terrible mistake three out, where she lost a significant amount of ground and momentum.

Dispite that mistake, the Trevor Campbell-owned mare stayed on stoutly and was a never nearer second at the finish.