DOWNPATRICK trainer Patrick Turley was on the mark at Kirkistown last Saturday when saddling It’s Hard To Know to land the Tattersalls NH five-year-old geldings’ maiden on his debut.

Ridden by his owner, Deckie Lavery, the chesnut son of Malinas scored by four lengths from fellow newcomer God Help Me, a French-bred Joshua Tree gelding owned and trained by Stuart Crawford.

Lavery, in partnership with the Turley family’s Kingsfield Stud, gave €10,000 for It’s Hard To Know at the 2022 July Sale at Tattersalls Ireland. The third of six recorded foals out of the unraced Oscar mare Sean’s Oscar, the gelding is due to come up at the Tattersalls Cheltenham Sale next Friday as Lot 18. God Help Me is catalogued as Lot 25.

Turley’s reputation for producing winning young horses received another boost last Thursday week when the Ben Pauling-trained Handstands landed a listed novices’ hurdle at Huntingdon. Under Lavery, the 2019 Getaway gelding justified even-money favouritism in a four-year-old maiden at Moira last October on his only start for Turley.

Other former Northern-trained horses to visit the winner’s enclosure recently were Crebilly and Teeshan, who both won at Exeter on Sunday and were previously in the care of Gerald Quinn, and the ex-Stuart Crawford-trained Coco Masterpiece, who landed the bumper at Thurles on Tuesday.

Quinn collects

Caoilin Quinn notched up three wins in the period under review – single victories at Kempton last Friday, at Plumpton on Monday and at Fontwell on Wednesday.

Also over jumps, there were wins for Sam Ewing at Navan on Sunday and for the CosyRoof-sponsored Danny McMenamin, Derek Fox and Brian Hughes at Ayr on Tuesday.

On the flat, Patsy Cosgrave was on the mark at Jebel Ali on Saturday while, back from his brief visit to Australia, Dylan Browne McMonagle recorded a treble at Dundalk on Wednesday.

Massey and Hamilton combine for maiden success
with Taxus

MANY congratulations to Hillsborough’s Campbell Massey and Downpatrick’s Brian Hamilton following the success of the well-named Taxus Baccata in the Ronnie Ross five and six-year-old mares’ maiden at Kirkistown last Saturday.

The six-year-old by Califet was ridden to victory by Alex Harvey, who was also aboard when she fell in the lead four out in a six-year-old and upwards mares’ maiden at Tyrella last month.

That was Taxus Baccata’s third start but her first for her current handler, Brian Hamilton senior, who, at the start of the year, took over training the yard’s pointers from her previous handler, Brian Hamilton junior.

Saturday’s success not only marked Campbell’s first win as an owner (and B.R. Hamilton’s first as an official handler) but he also bred Taxus Baccata, who is the second of four recorded foals out of Yewtree Girl. That Gamut mare ran in eight point-to-points between early March and mid-November 2015 – three times for James Lambe, once for Michael Millar and on four occasions for David Christie.

Out of the last-named’s Derrylin yard, Yewtree Girl finished second twice at Toomebridge and looked like winning on her final start at Kirkistown when falling at the last with a five-length lead.

Yewtree Girl’s first foal, Yewtree Hill, ran unplaced in Massey’s colours in four point-to-point maidens in the 2021/’22 season. While the plug was then pulled on his racing career, the Kalanisi gelding remains with the Hamilton family as Brian junior’s son – and Brian senior’s grandson – Sam competed him three times last year with Eventing Ireland and, with his mother Michelle guiding their progress, will have him out again this coming season.

Evening connection

They could well make an appearance at the Northern Region’s annual two-phase event at Tyrella on Saturday, March 9th, while you can read more about the connection between racing and eventing in my report on the Baileys Horse Feed flexi evening series at The Meadows in page 97.

There has been a long-term friendship between Brian junior and Saturday’s race sponsor Ronnie Ross, who is well-known for his ability to get horses jumping correctly but is even more-renowned for his skills as an equine physio/chiropractor. Local owners/trainers usually bring their animals to the Ross Sport Horses’ base in Comber while he will travel to yards further afield.

“I try to get to the odd point-to-point up here but, due to another commitment, I couldn’t go on Saturday,” said Ross, who has been tending to horses’ backs for around 30 years.

“I was delighted when I heard that the mare had won as I had treated her at home here a few days beforehand.”

Going back in time a bit, Ronnie and Brian Hamilton junior competed on the working hunter pony circuit together and represented Northern Ireland at the European championships in Scone Palace, Scotland. After that, Ronnie went show jumping while Brian went down the racing route.

Double up for McParlan

NOEL McParlan finished down the field on his three rides at Ayr on Tuesday but he had moved to the top of the regional riders’ point-to-point leaderboard following a double at Kirkistown on Saturday. Dara McGill currently lies second with six wins to his name

McParlan initiated his brace in the James Murdoch Contracts Open where he partnered Gorthill, trained in Dromara by Caroline McCaldin for her husband, Alan, to a 10-length success over the Warren Ewing-trained Jay Bee Why, who was partnered by McGill.

The double came up in the following Freemans Fuels Mares’ Winners’ of Two where he landed the match by 30 lengths on the Ocovango six-year-old Voleur De Terres, trained outside Ballymena by Gerald Quinn for Robert Armstrong.

Tango on top

Riding the Quinn-trained Glencorp, Noel again finished ahead of Dara in the concluding Bar One Racing & INHSC Six-Year-Old and Upwards Maiden but behind McGill’s brother, Orán, who scored by 13 lengths on Victor Tango. This seven-year-old Ocovango gelding is trained in Draperstown for his mother, Christine, by Noel Kelly, who also bred the chesnut.

Victor Tango is the third of just five recorded foals out of the Old Vic mare Charlie’s Vic, whose five track wins for the Kelly family (a bumper, two hurdle races and two chases) included the Grade 3 Dawn Run Mares Novice Chase at Limerick on St Patrick’s Day in 2013. She was also twice Grade 2-placed over fences and won a Necarne maiden at four.

The mare’s second foal, an eight-year-old Ocovango gelding named Comes Recommended, won a Monksgrange four-year-old maiden in September 2020 on the second of two starts for Mattie Flynn O’Connor, while Kelly has registered a hunters’ certificate this season for her five-year-old Soldier Of Fortune gelding Unfortunate Charlie.

Send-off organised for popular hotel

IT would appear that a bit of history is drawing to a close with the expected sale of the Londonderry Arms Hotel in Carnlough, Co Antrim, which has been owned by the O’Neill family for the past 75 years.

I am reliably informed by The Irish Field’s harness racing correspondent Dan Carlin, who has paid one or two visits to the establishment over the years, that the hotel houses a superb Arkle-themed bar.

Hopefully, the new owners will maintain that facility.

A gathering of former staff, customers, guests and friends of the Londonderry Arms is taking place there next Friday evening, February 23rd, from 7.30pm to 9.30pm.

Racing fans may like to know that Carnlough is roughly 20 miles north of the Crawford yard in Larne, 30 miles from Toomebridge and 35 miles from Loughanmore!

All set for big spring fixtures

BOTH local racecourses are busy on social media these days ahead of two upcoming fixtures.

Down Royal have been promoting their Bluegrass Horse Feeds St Patrick’s Day meeting on Sunday, March 17th, encouraging those interested in buying hospitality packages to do so swiftly. These feature one with an overnight stay at the Haslem Hotel in Lisburn which includes a shuttle bus service to and from the racecourse.

Downpatrick’s first meeting of the year is a little further off on Sunday, April 7th, but, here too, they are advertising hospitality packages for the Randox Ulster National meeting, although not for the Brownlow Suite which is already sold out.

Anyone watching GAA Beo on TV on Wednesday night will have the Randox logo imprinted on their brains following Ulster University’s big win over University College Dublin in the Sigerson Cup Final.