Gentle Cloud takes eventful open lightweight

Point-To-Point: Eventful. That’s the only way to accurately describe the open lightweight race at yesterday’s Dungarvan Farmers point-to-point at Kilossera in which owner/trainer Padraig Higgins’ Gentle Cloud continued his meteoric rise up through the ranks by beating Glenwood Knight.

The previous Sunday’s Killeagh winner Two Rockers tried to make all in this six-runner affair, the odds-on shot still holding the call over Current Exchange and recent Kilfeacle scorer Gentle Cloud after the second last of the 15 fences. Current Exchange though slipped up just before the final fence when still just one and a half length behind the leader in second spot.

The drama was far from over as Two Rockers blundered here, duly unshipping his rider a few strides after. Gentle Cloud (7/2), who was in the region of two lengths adrift of Two Rockers but staying on noticeably at the time, was then left clear to dismiss Glenwood Knight by ten lengths.

Ballynoe-based dairy farmer Higgins, also on the mark with the mare Ballyknock Hill at Killeagh the previous Sunday, remarked of the now five-times successful Gentle Cloud: “This horse is fair tough but he would just prefer better ground than he had out there today. I want to win another open with him and the plan then would be hopefully to go to Cheltenham with him for the Foxhunters in March. He could run next at Kildorrery next month.”

Gentle Cloud’s rider John Barry partnered two winners for he earlier took the confined hunts maiden aboard newcomer Dr Cuddles (10/1), a first winner for Cappagh-based owner/trainer Gemma Phelan.

The seven-year-old Dr Cuddles, one of two pointers that showjumper Miss Phelan has in harness at present, eased his way into contention from four out and he effortlessly assumed command after the penultimate obstacle to slam the mare Ballyknock Rose by an unchallenged ten lengths.

Derek O’Connor however dominated proceedings by partnering three winners, the former champion getting off the mark aboard Robert Tyner’s newcomer Pack Your Bags (2/1) in the opening five-year-old geldings’ maiden.

The Black Sam Bellamy-sired Pack Your Bags edged ever closer from three out and he stormed to the front shortly after rounding the bend after the final fence to thwart favourite Brave McAlister by three lengths. Pack Your Bags, a 2013 Derby sale acquisition that represents Tyner’s wife Mary, is now bumper-bound.

It was Tyner, also on the mark with Simple Steps at Nenagh, that supplied the Galwegian with his final winner Millie Decourcey (5/2) in the concluding seven-year-old and upwards maiden.

Millie Decourcey stepped up from her sixth-placed return effort at Dromahane on December 30th by challenging between horses to lead over the final fence. She was always possessing too many aces for runner-up Royal Haslar thereafter, the winning margin being three parts of a length. A mares’ winners race is now on the agenda for Millie Decourcey, sporting the silks of the De Courcey Racing Club from the Ballinspittle and Kinsale areas.

O’Connor’s remaining success came courtesy of Ballypatrick-based owner/trainer Rosemary Rooney’s Battle Dust (4/1) in the six-year-old geldings’ maiden, an event that was staged in memory of the late Jim Hickey from Ballinamult.

With newcomer Bullzeye falling when in the lead at the fourth last, Battle Dust eased his way into pole position travelling best of all two out and he stylishly asserted on the flat to repel Michael Kennedy’s Ringrone Castle by five lengths. The likelihood is that Battle Dust, a graduate of the 2012 August sale at Fairyhouse, will now be sold.

Racegoers were treated to a truly gripping finish in the five and six-year-old mares’ maiden when the relatively easy-to-back Classic Palace (7/2), an eight-times runner-up, led home a one-two-three for the Colin Bowe stable when beating Answer Ur Phone by a head in the hands of Barry O’Neill as On The Couch stayed on to purposeful effect to secure the minor honours, a further three parts of a length adrift.

Classic Palace is owned by former Cheltenham festival winning jockey Michael Furlong, he of Bannow Rambler fame, in partnership with his brother Pat Furlong and Sharon Walsh.


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