DESPITE the bitter cold there was a large attendance, plenty of runners and good racing at the North Down Point-to-Point meeting at Kirkistown on Saturday — a big day for the area as there was also motor racing at the adjacent race circuit.
The meeting was a sound one for the season’s leading jockey Barry ‘Bon’ O’Neill as he brought his tally to 28, six ahead of current champion jockey Jamie Codd, with a treble, two trained by his boss Colin Bowe.
It was also a good day for Banbridge farrier Mark O’Hare as he recorded a double, bringing his total for the season to eight.
The first win of the day for the O’Neill/Bowe combination came in the Albert Bartlett five year-old geldings maiden race when the Real Snoopy just got the better of the Mervyn Torrens-trained Back to Bataan by a neck and Nobodydoesitbetter third.
Manettti crashed out at the last under Noel McParlan when a big danger, a fall that saw Noel miss out on his remaining rides.
O’Neill and Bowe, who hail from Wexford, then took the one winner race with Lacken Bridge, the winner getting the better of Johnnie Cresswell on Eugene Ryan’s Howwouldsheno with Francie Gwyne third under Rory Devine, who has been getting a lot of rides at this early stage of the season.
All 10 entries were declared to run in this race, but Sean McParlan withdrew his new charge The Trigger when he saw his son Noel was unable to take the mount.
With 20 of the 23 entries in the maiden race for six year-old plus maidens declared, it was divided and in the first section there was a popular success for Crowded Room, ridden by O’Neil, winning in the colours of bookmaker Ray Nicholas.
The combination just got the better of Top Ticket, ridden by Mark O’Hare with Hammer and Anvil, a late spare for Derek O’Connor, third. This was a good run as the horse, owned by Ballymoney farrier James Mawhinney, last ran back in October 2015. The winner is trained in Armagh by Marshall Watson and this was his first runner of the season.
There was a nice local success in the second divide with Bi-Quini Tiep providing Ballynoe trainer Brian Hamilton and his stable jockey Declan Lavery with a welcome change of luck. Running well to finish second was Rossamilan with Rory Devine third on Nettlebush.
The winner is owned by English man Nigel Baring, who was present to see this success having been disappointed when his charge finished second at the same venue back in November.
This was an early divided race and with so many horses schooled after racing, good fields should be the norm at the season progresses.
Mark O’Hare got off to a great start when he joined forces with Warren Ewing to win the opening Dennison Commercials four year-old maiden race on Sending Love, the partnership winning in good style from long time leader Dandolo Du Gite and Templapark.
Ewing has a good record with his runners at this venue and as usual, this horse will now go to the sales. Former top amateur rider, Ewing is a member of a the well known fish supply business.
O’Hare then rode Cangodemayo to victory in the 5-6 year-old mares maiden race for popular Katesbridge trainer Gerry Cosgrave, who told me that he has a nice lot of young horses for the season.
This race provided a good finish with O’Hare just getting his mount home by a neck over Sligo runner Hollow Park with Little Millie third for Banbridge trainer Matt Quinn.
The winner was a first runner in some time for Patsy Murphy from Mayobridge, well known as a mushroom farmer — at one stage, Patsy had a permit to train under rules.
Smallest line up of the day was in the Manor Mill open race and there was another popular success when Chosen Dream in the colours of the North’s most senior owner Peggy Hagan, who was present at the races, despite being in her 90s.
Ridden by Derek O’Connor for Templepatrick trainer Graham McKeever, the surprise winner was followed home by Aupcharlie, ridden by Jamie Codd with 17 year-old Jay Gibney from Downpatrick third on his father Liam’s Mart Lane.
The next local meeting is at Armagh on Saturday, February 25, and then back to Tyrella on March 4 for their second meeting of the season.
Noel McParlan took his total to the season to 14 when riding Flemensill to victory for Wilson Dennison at Oldtown in County Meath on Sunday.