REGISTERING a first winner is always a moment to savour for any trainer and Garrett Hassett from Quin reached that notable milestone recently when sending out Miyajima to land the winners of two contests at the Westmeath Foxhounds point-to-point at Castletown-Geoghegan.
Hassett, who trains the 10/1 winner for his veterinary surgeon father Paddy, had the nine-year-old in peak condition for his first start in three months and, under a supremely confident front-running ride from Tulla jockey, Colm Murray, the pair made every post a winning one when coming home a dozen lengths clear of runner-up, Time Out Gaffer.
The Hassett family have enjoyed a long and successful association with racing and Garrett, who occupied a prominent position as a marketing executive with bloodstock sales company Goffs before deciding to concentrate on training, is now carrying on the tradition at their Moyriesk yard, where he has over 15 horses currently riding out.
Miyajima’s next outing will be in a cross-country race at Punchestown next month and his long term target is the Cross-Country Chase at the Cheltenham Festival next March.
Champion jockey Derek O’Connor has made a good start to his 2009/10 campaign and is currently on the five-winner mark, having ridden three winners the weekend before last. Unfortunately for the Tubber rider, the Newry Harriers meeting scheduled for Taylorstown last Saturday was postponed and this will now take place on Wednesday, October 21, at the same venue.
O’Connor will be in action at the Galway Blazers outing at Dartfield, Loughrea, on Sunday where the first of a six-race card is off at 1.30pm.
Treacle lands Munster National for Taaffe and Townend
Last Sunday’s Ladbrokes.com Munster National at Limerick was a thrilling affair with victory in this Grade A three-mile chase going to Tom Taaffe’s progressive 7/1 shot Treacle.
Off the track since his last run back in June, this son of Zaffaran, who handled the cut in the ground, was given a very patient ride by his Cork-born jockey Paul Townend.
As expected, Michael Hourigan’s Kerry National runner-up Church Island, who likes to bowl along in front, made the running until he began to back pedal after the fourth last fence, where the well-fancied Dashing George took up the running.
Turning for home, he was still at the head of affairs with Paddy Pub and improving Treacle beginning to mount a challenge. Jumping the final fence, Townend had Treacle in full flow and, despite a spirited display from Dashing George, Treacle finished just that bit stronger to beat the rival by a neck. Paddy Pub filled third for former Kilkenny All-Ireland hurling medal winner Kieran Purcell, a further four lengths in rear, with Davy Fitzgerald’s 25/1 shot Operation Houdini in fourth.
Local hopes Ballycullen Boy (6th) and Powerstation (7th) never really looked likely to win, while well-backed 11/2 favourite Green Mile was a major disappointment, being eventually pulled-up after three out by Ruby Walsh when well out of contention.
Tom Taaffe declared, “This was a big ask for this horse coming here today. Paul (Townend) gave him a terrific ride and he was ice-cool. I told him to hunt him around and if he was in contention at the top of the hill, he would come home well.”
Taaffe went on, “I’m delighted for his owner, Bjorn Nielsen, who lives n New York and has a good team of horses with me. This fellow got a leg when winning his novice chase at Fairyhouse two years ago and was 18 months on the sidelines. He lacks experience but has loads of guts and that’s what won it for him today.”
As regards where Treacle is likely to go next, Taaffe revealed, “I suppose we will be thinking of November and December and the Troytown at Navan and the Paddy Power at Christmas. There is a little race (the Hennessy Gold Cup) in England in November and we’ll have to consider that too.”
Elsewhere on the card, Adrian Maguire’s Let Yourself Go stamped himself an animal with a big future when running out a very impressive winner of the Grade 3 PricewaterhouseCoopers Chase.
A clear-cut winner of a Ballybunion point-to-point under Derek O’Connor on his sole outing between the flags back in 2007, Let Yourself Go made every yard of the running in this two-mile, one-furlong test and, while his task was eased by the fall of English challenger Cornas (even-money favourite) five from home, he appeared full of running when passing the post four-and-a-half lengths ahead of runner-up Top Of The Rock.
Tipperary trainer Edward O’Grady and his stable jockey Andrew McNamara took the day’s honours when combing to land a double, which was initiated by the success of 3/1 shot Warne in the opening Listed Newham Mulligan Novice Hurdle. The winning margin here over second-placed Premier Victory was 17 lengths, but this doesn’t tell the whole story as the Ruby Walsh-ridden Bertie’s Dream (who, it has to be said, looked to be flying the distress signals in any case) fell at the second-last allowing the winner coast to a bloodless victory.
The O’Grady/McNamara brace was sealed as hot favourite Jumbo Rio made light of his 10 rivals in the Oakbruce Properties Hurdle.
Backed down to 4/7 favouritism, the winner was cantering all over his opponents all through and a confident McNamara only had to nudge his mount clear in the closing stages to beat Spanish Auriga by a length-and-a-half.
Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins rarely leave a meeting empty-handed these days and their turn came in the Joseph Ribcoff Handicap Hurdle, where 2/1 favourite Our Monty made a winning debut for the Closutton, Carlow trainer.
Noel Glynn’s runner Balsaflour (14/1-8/1) was the one for money in the ring prior to this two and three-quarter mile contest and, while he ran a very good race under Paul Carberry to finish second, he couldn’t match the winner, who pulled clear after the final flight under a tight rein to score by five lengths.
Sea The Stars retired
John Oxx’s multiple Group One winner Sea The Stars has been retired.
On Tuesday, Oxx revealed that the brilliant son of Cape Cross, who landed his sixth consecutive Group 1 race of the season when defeating Youmzain in the Prix De L’Arc at Longchamp recently, had run his last race and will now be retired to what is sure to be a lucrative career at stud.
One of the best horses of his or any generation, Sea The Stars deserves every accolade that comes his way, as do his trainer Oxx and regular jockey Michael Kinane.
His three-year-old campaign started way back in May with success in the Stan James 2,000 Guineas and this was followed by a stunning victory in the Investec Derby at Epsom in June. Only poor weather conditions prevented the Christopher Tsui-owned colt from adding the Irish Derby to his haul when he was withdrawn at the last minute due to the heavy ground, but he was quickly back in the winning groove when storming to victory in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown the following month.
York in August was his next port of call where he beat Mastercraftsman to land the Juddmonte International and Irish fans were thrilled to get a chance to see the superstar in action in the flesh as he put up a stunning performance to win the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown last month.
While there was some talk after his Paris triumph two weeks ago of a possible trip to the Breeders’ Cup, it comes as no surprise that Sea The Stars has bowed out on a winning note. What he has achieved has been remarkable, having brought flat racing to a huge audience as a result.