In her weekly Limerick Leader racing column, Katie McNamara looks back at a successful Killarney festival
The beautifully picturesque Killarney three-day festival was topped off last Tuesday with a surprising winner for the Charles Byrnes team with Arnaud. The Gigginstown-owned gelding went off at 8/1 with 4/7 favourite Rebel Fitz looking a certainty to get his chasing career off to a winning start, having won the Galway Hurdle last Summer.
Niall Madden rode the Byrnes inmate who had been a bit costly to follow over hurdles in the last few months. However, he was given a fine ride by Madden on the day, leading the field for the majority of the two mile and one furlong distance and stayed on well to land the spoils by five and a half lengths from Rebel Fitz. Byrnes explained afterwards: “I fancied him at Cork but the ground was worse than it was here. His jumping is brilliant. I thought he would have achieved a lot more than he has. He was a second season hurdler and was impossible to place. He ended up being badly handicapped. We’ll stay chasing and keep him going over the summer as he goes on fast ground”.
County Limerick jockey Brian O’Connell has been in great form of late riding winners quite frequently for the likes of John Joe Walsh, Philip Fenton and Philip Rothwell. Last Thursday at Tipperary was no different as he was off the mark once again aboard the John Joe Walsh trained Jubilee Year in the Arkenvale Ltd Handicap Hurdle.
The five-year-old-son of Zagreb was winning for the first time in his career having showed on both his outings in bumpers. O’Connell is quite in demand riding for various trainers every day and it is not easy being a jockey with no claim these days as you are competing with the likes of Ruby Walsh and Davy Russell for rides. However, O’Connell seems to be well able to hold his own and is doing extremely well regardless.
Champion conditional rider Mark Enright continued to live up to his new title last Friday at Kilbeggan as he teamed up with his boss Dessie Hughes to land a terrific 152/1 double on the day. His first winner came in the Westmeath Beginners Chase aboard the 33/1 shot Dakotepe. It was certainly a surprise according to his trainer as he had fallen at Punchestown.
Enright’s second winner came less than half an hour later with the in form Wise Oscar in the Belvedere House Gardens Handicap Chase over three miles and one furlong. The 7/2 shot was given a patient ride as Enright chased the leaders throughout and took closer order four fences from home. From here, the nine year old led after the second last and stayed on strongly to take the contest by two and a quarter lengths from the Davy Fitzgerald trained Pigeon Creek. An impressed Hughes stated afterwards: “He’s progressing well and is a smashing little horse. He did it well off 118 today. It was very heavy in Navan and Punchestown. He’s only small and did well to get through it like he did. He appreciated the better ground there today and he can keep going now”.
This great run of success for our Limerick jockeys was followed up with a winner for Ballingarry jockey Billy Lee, who took the Sharon Boland Rated Race over one mile and three furlongs with Tooreen Legend at Wexford the next day. The Tommy Stack trained gelding went off at 11/4 and was given a fine ride by Lee who waited with the three year old before making his move two furlongs from home and went on to take the race by half a length from Nabat Ali.
Lee later stated: “He travelled well the whole way and I just bided my time with him as it was his first time over the trip. I might have got there half a furlong too soon but he kept going well. He doesn’t do a whole lot in front and he was rolling around a bit”.
Provided he does not carry too much of a penalty when he steps out again, he may be one to have on your side.
Trainer Michael Hourigan had a day to remember at his local track on Sunday as he teamed up with Cork jockey Adrian Heskin to record a smashing double with locally owned horses Tropical Three and What’s happening. Tropical Three was having just her second run in a maiden hurdle having finished third last time out in Killarney in a similar race and having won the valuable ITBA Fillies Scheme Premier Bumper at the Punchestown Festival last month. The five year old daughter of Portrait Gallery justified odds of 4/6 on the day, much to the delight of her connections.
Hourigan stated afterwards: “She’ll get her holidays now and will have a month to five weeks off. She’ll come back around Listowel time and she is a nice mare to look forward too. She will stay hurdling this season and I’m not sure yet what other good mares are around to take her on”. Hourigan’s double was completed an hour and a half later with the 7/4 favourite What’s Happening taking the Supermacs Dooradoyle Beginners Chase over two miles and three furlongs.
The Billy and Karen Hourigan owned gelding tracked the leader in second for most of the way and stayed on strongest of the field to take the contest by an impressive seven and a half lengths from Lough Roe Lady. A delighted Hourigan explained: “He could do no more than he did there but Adrian said he made hard work of it on that testing ground. However it wasn’t a strong contest and he just about got away with it”. The winning pair of John Joe Walsh and Brian O’Connell completed a great week with Hillman taking the Cul Campus Limerick Handicap Chase.
A great crowd turned out at the racecourse on the day to support the wonderfully organised Limerick Quarter fashion show in aid of Pieta House. Fair play to all the staff at the racecourse for making the day such a success. The next meeting at Greenmount Park will be held on June 2 with the theme being family fun day with many free kids activities on the day.
It also incorporates the Circuit of the Munster rally where nine different stages of the championship will be held in Limerick over the weekend. Three of these stages will be held at the racecourse which will include the start, finish and service stops. It’s a day that simply cannot be missed!