THE Route Hunt point to point at Portrush proved a great success, with locals attracting a very large attendance and one first time attendee said: “A great fun day out and we are up here most weekends – it was something different to go racing”. It was just pity that only 29 runners went to post during the afternoon, despite the course being in excellent condition.
Local trainers won all six races on the card and Fermanagh trainer, David Christie recorded a double, with ‘Vaucelet’ claiming the feature and ‘Ask D’Man’ landing the winners’ contest. Both horses are owned by Portstewart hotelier, John Hegarty, who sponsored the winners’ race under his Royal Court Hotel title.
The last named made all, but was always closely attended by the runner up ‘William Tyndale’, which joined the winner two from home, however, class prevailed and ‘Ask D’Man’ had the race in safe keeping prior to the last.
Christie said: “He’ll continue in open races and I’ll look for a maiden hunterchase down the line.”
Champion Novice Hunterchaser, ‘Vaucelet’ had no more than a schooling round to win the open race, having had to settle for runner up in the race last year, but has been unbeaten since. Winner of the Novice championship at Stratford last season, the Fermanagh trained horse was winning his third successive race and the Derrylin trainer said: “That was a pleasing seasonal debut. He wants good ground and I’ll not ask him to tackle deep winter ground. His ultimate target is the Foxhunters at the Cheltenham Festival and I’ll plan his campaign around that.”
All-Ireland Champion rider, Barry O’Neill completed a double on the Christie brace.
A prospective high class horse won the opening younger maiden, when the Jamie Sloan trained, ‘Ballyhigh’, under a patient ride from Northern Champion, Noel McParlan claimed the contest with the series sponsored by leading producer, Wilson Dennison, who aptly owns the winner.
The winner, in the rear for most of the race, readily improved from two out, jumping into the lead at the penultimate fence and another superb leap at the last sealing victory.
Sloan said: “He’s a horse I have always held in the highest regard and been looking forward to getting him out. He’s a class act and his work and schooling at home have shown the talent that exists. He’ll head to the next sale of point to point horses.”
The winner, a son of ‘Canford Cliffs’, was bred by Dr Dean Harron, former Chairman of the All-Ireland and Ulster Region of the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association.
Downpatrick trainer, Pat Turley landed the geldings maiden with ‘Glebe Road’ and stable rider Declan Lavery aboard. ‘Katesbridge’ was travelling well in the lead, when landing too steep and falling two from home, after which the race became a hard fought tussle between the winner and runner up ‘Rockhamptom’.
County Antrim father and son pair, Gary McGill and son, Oran won the mares maiden with the winner’s better jump at the last possibly making the difference to the result. McGill Senior advised a suitable winners race would be next.
‘Drumlee Castle’, under a fine ride from Declan Lavery, claimed the finale and providing the top amateur with a double, while supplying Ballymoney owner and handler, Gary Dillion with a first ever success.
Meanwhile, ‘The Mean Queen’ has progressed from winning point to points to win the $150,000 American Grand National at Far Hills Racecourse, New York on Saturday for trainer, Keri Brion, a former assistant to Hall of Famer Jonathon Sheppard and was partnered by Richie Condon. Connections now have the Mares Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival as a target, with the mare previously having won at next week’s venue at Loughanmore, Templepatrick – considered a premier course, which has produced numerous top class horses.
Saturday, October 16
Portrush point to point
First Race: 1) Ballyhigh (Noel McParlan) 6/4; 2) Boolamore Glory; 3) Champagne Town. 5 ran. 2 – 4.
Second Race: 1) Glebe Road (Declan Lavery) 7/2; 2) Rockhamptom; 3) Satellite Receiver. 6 ran. 1/2 – 5.
Third Race: 1) Just West (Oran McGill) 3/1; 2) Any Time; 3) Drumlees Pet. 5 ran, 2 1/2 – 1.
Fourth Race: 1) Vaucelet (Barry O’Neill) 1 /4 fav; 2) Fenlon’s Hill. Only two finished. 3 ran. distance.
Fifth Race: 1) Ask D’Man (Barry O’Neill) 4/5 fav; 2) William Tyndale; 3) Chariot Warrior. 3 ran. 3 – dist.
Sixth Race: 1) Drumlee Castle (Declan Lavery) 6/1; 2) Ballymist; 3) Five Dollar Fine. 6 ran. 3 – neck.