That was the universal reaction to the Pigeon Hill & Carrigtwohill point-to-point committee’s new left-handed course at Ballyvodock which was unveiled for the first time yesterday and on a quite cold afternoon, 18-year-old Stella McGrath left the Midleton venue on excellent terms with herself as she partnered her very first career winner aboard her mother Jacqueline’s Eala Beag in the mares’ winners of two.
The Louis Archdeacon-trained Eala Beag (10/1), who was fitted with cheekpieces, disputed the running virtually throughout with Emilyano until going for home after the third last of the 14 obstacles.
Runner-up Bothermenot was soon in pursuit, but Declan Queally had to go for his whip on the odds-on shot approaching the final fence as Eala Beag stayed on stoutly to oblige by a half-length in what was the closest finish of the afternoon. Miss McGrath, who hails from Ardnaclug outside Bandon, presently rides out for both Archdeacon and James Dullea and this was actually her ninth career mount.
Mikey Kennedy likewise had an afternoon to savour for the 28-year-old recorded his initial training success courtesy of Hawkers Son (7/2) in an eventful confined hunt maiden.
Hawkers Son bounced back from a somewhat disappointing effort when pulling up at Aghabullogue on January 11th by picking up the running approaching two out. The eventual winner seemed to have the measure of Cloneen Choice when James Hannon’s mount, who was a half-length adrift at the time in second spot, fell here and this penultimate fence also claimed the pursuing Ballally Queen.
Hawkers Son, owned by Seamus Murphy from Carrignavar, duly beat the well-supported A Country Mile by three lengths. Dingle native Kennedy, who previously spent four years as head lad to Eugene O’Sullivan, presently trains 10 horses at Ardkilly outside Kinsale.
Hawkers Son’s rider Ciaran Fennessy went on to partner two winners, the Fermoy amateur later capturing the closing six-year-old and upwards maiden aboard Mattie Collins’ Talk Of The South (3/1).
Placed on three out of his four previous starts, Talk Of The South made most of the running and he fought off favourite Iconic Image from the second last. It was Windy Island that came through to occupy the runner-up slot some two and a half lengths adrift of the Barry Mason-owned/bred six-year-old with a three and a half length break to the third-placed Iconic Image.
Handler Collins’ son Pat, who partnered Iconic Image in the six-year-old and upwards maiden, didn’t leave empty-handed for he combined with John Paul Brennan to land the geldings’ winners of one with Skip A Beat Kid (6/1).
A half-brother to his handler’s prolific pointer Need To Know, the six-year-old Skip A Beat Kid went to the front after the second last and he then had little difficulty in eclipsing veteran Leading The Life by a length with three lengths back to long-time leader Glasslyn Road in third spot. Another winners race is now likely to feature for Skip A Beat Kid.
The Denis Ahern-trained King Of Milan (4/1) vindicated the promise of his fourth-placed debut effort behind Au Quart De Tour at Dromahane last April by returning to the coveted number one slot in the five-year-old geldings’ maiden.
King Of Milan, sporting the silks of Ahern’s uncle Connie Hickey, disputed the running with Sean Ban until going on from half-way in the hands of Eoin O’Brien. The winning son of Milan edged into a couple of lengths advantage from three out and he was always containing favourite Consharon Boy from before the last, four lengths the ultimate winning margin. The likelihood is that King Of Milan will now be sold.
Talented five claimer Jimmy O’Rourke sent the Denis Murphy-trained newcomer Jessber’s Dream (5/1) through to lead on the inner before two out in the five-year-old mares’ maiden and the daring initiative reaped rich dividends as the daughter of Milan bounded clear to dismiss King Of Milan’s stable companion Goodthynemilan by six lengths. Murphy, who was saddling his initial runner since the campaign recommenced at Dromahane after Christmas, indicated that his partner Maria Byrne’s Jessber’s Dream is now on the market.
The Gain Mares’ Final will take place at Ballynoe on Tuesday March 17th and it was announced yesterday that this year’s race will come complete with a generous €3, 000 bonus to the winner.