A BUMPER crowd is expected to attend Bellharbour on Sunday, where the County Clare Hunt are hosting their eagerly-awaited point-to-point fixture, writes Michael Duggan.
The recent lifting of the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions have come at just the right time for pointing fans, and Sunday promises to be a fantastic day’s racing.
Quin man, Paul O’Neill, who is one of the chief organisers of the meeting, told The Clare Champion earlier this week: “We are so looking forward to this weekend. Thankfully, things are slowly but surely returning to normal post-Covid, and the easing of restrictions has been sweet music to our ears.
“Anybody travelling to Bellharbour on Sunday does not have to do anything other than turn up on the day. All the pre-registering issues and stuff like that have been done away with and that certainly makes life easier for all concerned.”
In recent times, the hosting of a point-to-point has evolved into a fun day for all, and Clare Hunt have an array of events lined-up to keep patrons amused.
“The emphasis now is very much on something for all the family to enjoy. On that score, we have a dog show, pony rides and a Labrador gun-dog display to entertain fans. We will also have a wide range of food stalls with a variety of products on offer.”
Turning to action on-track, O’Neill continued: “We have been racing in Bellharbour for 20 years at this stage. Our hosts, the Linnane family, have really embraced the meeting and it is widely acknowledged that there isn’t a better track in the country.
“The course is currently in pristine condition, with a nice covering of grass on it due to unusually fine spell we’ve had since Christmas. Hunt members have been busy over the past few weeks putting the finishing touches to the track, and it’s fair to say it has never looked as good as it is does right now.”
Running a successful day’s racing between the flags is a huge undertaking, and O’Neill is thankful to all the local businesses who have rowed in behind the fixture.
🗣️ Michael O'Donoghue
📍Bellharbour, Co Clare
🏇🏽 Co Clare (F) Point to Point
📅 Sunday 6th February
🌱 Ground update
🌦 Weather forecast
⌚️ First race 1pm
🗞 @irishp2p @QrIrish @TheIrishField pic.twitter.com/zgLCa7aSCf
— IHRB (@ihrb_ie) February 4, 2022
“We have received terrific support over the years from our loyal sponsors and that fact is not lost on us. It’s all about a sense of community, and we are so looking forward to seeing familiar faces back on track after what has been a very trying couple of years,” added O’Neill, whose family are well-known in racing and greyhound bookmaking circles.
Proceedings at the picturesque Burrenside venue get underway at 1pm and it looks like being a busy afternoon for all concerned with the planned six-race card attracting 125 entries.
As always, punters will be keeping a keen eye on local runners and, for those interested, betting facilities and TV pictures will be available for day-two of the Dublin Racing Festival from Leopardstown.
All in all, it promises to be a terrific afternoon. Ample car parking is available on-site and plenty of stewards will be on duty to facilitate easy access to the track. Best advice is to arrive in plenty of time – as a record attendance is expected.
Thyestes glory for Brassil
Newmarket-on-Fergus-born trainer, Martin Brassil, is no stranger to big-race success.
Back in 2006 the Lisduff native famously sent out Numbersixvalverde (owned by Ennis-born Bernard Carroll) to land the Aintree Grand National under another then amateur jockey with strong south-east Clare connections, Niall “Slippers” Madden.
That horse had underlined his Grand National credentials when successful in the 2005 Thyestes Chase at Gowran, before going on to claim the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse 57 days later.
Over 8,500 fans crammed into Gowran Park last week where Brassil had his first runner in the Thyestes since that memorable day back in 2005.
On the build-up to the race, the normally reticent Brassil very publicly stated he thought Longhouse Poet had a good chance in the race. Punters certainly took the hint, as the Sean and
Bernardine Mulryan-owned eight-year-old’s odds tumbled from 25/1 at one stage to as low as 3/1 favourite on the eve of the €100,000 feature.
On the day, Longhouse Poet went off a 9/1 shot and duly delivered under a great ride from jockey Darragh O’Keeffe.
Prominent throughout, O’Keeffe sent his mount to the front three out. At the wings of the final fence, Willie Mullins’ Franco De Port had emerged a serious challenger.
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) January 27, 2022
Early on the run-in, Paul Townend edged Franco De Port into a slender lead, but Longhouse Poet was game and finding plenty in the closing stages, the son of Yeats pulled away to score by three-and-a-half-lengths.
Speaking to The Clare Champion this week, Brassil reflected on his latest high-profile success: “It was great as those valuable handicaps are fiercely competitive and very hard won.
“We knew our horse was in good form and when horses are healthy and happy it’s a big plus.
“I wanted to run him in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas, but the ground there was just too quick for him. We went to Limerick with him instead and he ran well enough there over a shorter trip.
“We bought him from Sam Curling after he won his point-to-point first time out in Boulta when ridden by Derek O’Connor. He was a natural from day one and any horse educated by Derek will know their job!”
Now that the prestigious Thyestes has been secured, further big-race success for Longhouse Poet is in the pipeline, with a similar path to Numbersixvalverde under consideration.
“Entries for the Aintree Grand National closed last Monday and we’ve put him in there. He’ll also have an entry for the Irish National on Easter Monday (April 18). Nothing has been decided as of yet, but we’re just lucky to have these nice horses to train. I’m delighted for the Mulryan’s, they are fantastic supporters of our yard.”