BARRY O’Neill’s rich vein of form continued on Saturday at the Fermanagh Hunt sanctioned fixture at Necarne as he recorded a double and has now stretched 12 winners clear of Dara McGill in the Northern riders race.

Josie Alice (7/4 - 5/2 favourite) kicked off the O’Neill double in the five-year-old and upwards mares’ maiden, producing a gutsy display to strike for her handler Colin Bowe.

The daughter of Soldier Of Fortune, who is a half-sister to the 20-time winner The New One, topped the betting market following her near miss at Oldcastle a fortnight ago.

The Milestone Bloodstock-owned mare made very stylish progress to lead before the third last, and quickly shot into a handy advantage two from home.

She looked to have the race put to bed before the last but faced a rallying Somebody’s Fortune on the run-in. The bay mare was gritty in front and found plenty when challenged under O’Neill’s urgings, with one length the winning distance back to the gallant second, who caught the eye for the Brian Hamilton stable.

“She is a very nice mare, we always thought she was a good horse,” remarked Bowe. “She had good form in the book so I would have been disappointed if she hadn’t won today, she will make a smart type on the track.”


It was the David Christie-owned and handled Nevermindestranger (5/1 - 4/1) who provided O’Neill with his brace by dead-heating with Colin Bowe’s Bourbon N Kentucky (3/1 - 9/2) in the older geldings’ maiden.

The race saw early drama with the second favourite Mount Wilson unseating at the first and the favourite Imperial Rule running out before the second, which left only five in contention.

Nevermindestranger, who finished second in a match at Damma House last year, made his move to lead from the third last, and although he was quickly joined on the home bend by Bourbon N Kentucky and Gleninnis Storm, the son of Mahler soon found more to kick into a two-length advantage at the last.

However the Final Furlong Bloodstock-owned Bourbon N Kentucky made rapid progress on the flat to join him on the line, with the judge unable to separate the pair.

Harley Dunne sent out his sixth winner of the season as Springt De La Mare (4/1 - 3/1 favourite) produced a visually impressive performance in the opening four-year-old maiden.

Having been prominently ridden throughout at the head of affairs and fencing smartly throughout, the son of No Risk At All, who was an €88,000 Tattersalls graduate last year, picked up very stylishly after the second last, and when tackled approaching the last by the eventual runner-up Bleu De Vassy, the French-bred gelding had more in reserve to go on again on the run-in, scoring by two lengths at the line.

“We have always thought a lot of him, he is a lovely horse. He is a great jumper, and he has a big engine,” said Eoin Barry, representative of the winning handler. “Tiernan give him a great ride, it was a very impressive performance, and he looks very good.”

Kerryhill justifies strong market support

KERRYHILL (3/1 - 6/4 favourite), who was just touched off at Kirkistown back in November behind the subsequent American Hurdle winner The Hero Next Door, justified strong market support to take the five-year-old geldings’ maiden for the in-form handler Colin McKeever.

The son of Soldier Of Fortune received a fine ride from Derek O’Connor. The victor always travelled strongly and jumped smoothly throughout and was only briefly headed after the third last for the first time in the contest.

The Wilson Dennison-owned gelding made progress to lead again at the second last, and looked as if he was going to win with ease, but the second, Let’s Go Joe, kept him honest to the line, with only one length to spare at the line from the Harley Dunne-handled runner-up.

“We have always thought a lot of him at home, he had done everything right and he is just such a talented horse,” McKeever said of what was his 11th winner of the term.

“We thought he was our best chance of a winner coming here today and Derek said he was always holding on, and probably going away at the finish.”


Only three horses went to post in the day’s feature, the Ladies Open, with the star attraction Winged Leader (1/4 - 1/3 favourite) sent off as a heavy odds-on favourite to oblige for his owners John Hegarty and Jennifer O’Kane and provide his handler David Christie with a double on the card.

The son of Winged Love, who ran below-par in the Aintree Foxhunters last time, made this his 10th open win of his career in dominant fashion.

Making all and with Susie Doyle oozing confidence throughout, a push of the button before two-out saw the pair effortlessly gallop into a clear unassailable advantage, and with his other two rivals under severe pressure in behind, a slick jump at the last sealed a 17-and-a-half-length victory for the top hunter chaser.

Pepper adds a third win

GREAT PEPPER (2/1 - 7/2), who won his maiden on similar ground in convincing fashion at Ballycrystal back in January, improved again to take the winner-of-three event in snug fashion, just getting up in the shadow of the line to beat the long-time leader Pour Me A Double.

The Donnchadh Doyle-trained son of Great Pretender was held up until making stylish headway into fourth at the second last, and soon shot into a clear second.

The victor had several lengths to make up with the front-running Pour Me A Double before the last but stayed on resolutely under Alan Harney on the run-in to score by three quarters of a length.

Horse to Follow

Somebody’s Fortune (B. Hamilton): The daughter of Malinas showed huge improvement on her previous form when only going down by a length to Josie Alice, drawing well clear of the third. The Gilmer Bates-owned mare should make amends next time out.