GARRETT Hassett has made a fine start to his training career and the Moyriesk, Quin, handler teamed-up with champion jockey Derek O’Connor to take the concluding seven-year-old geldings’ maiden with Macs Lad at last Sunday’s Bartlemy, county Cork point-to-point meeting.
Macs Lad went off at 7/2 and given a typically patient O’Connor ride the son of Old Vic was settled out the back of this 10-runnner field in the early stages.
Heading toward the final fence, it appeared as if Smoke Shelter, trained in Sixmilebridge by Niall Kelleher, was going to succeed, but O’Connor had timed his effort aboard Macs Lad to perfection when sweeping past that rival with 100 yards to go to beat the Declan Queally-ridden runner-up by three-parts of a length.
Hassett, who trains the winner for his father, well-known veterinary surgeon Paddy Hassett, will go now to the track for a handicap hurdle with Macs Lad who should be able to exploit his hurdle rating of 80 to good effect on his favoured fast ground over the summer months.
Macs Lad’s success was giving Derek O’Connor his 90th win of the season with the six-time champion having ridden four winners over the previous 48 hours at Necarne’s two-day fixture last Friday and Saturday.
The Tubber rider kicked off Friday evening’s session when taking the second division of the opening four-year-old maiden aboard Colin McKeever’s well-backed 5/4 favourite Ballygarvey.
Clear approaching the final fence, this son of Laveron made a very bad mistake here which almost cost him victory, but O’Connor managed to get him back on an even keel in time to beat second-placed Bobby Cullen by two lengths.
Later on O’Connor brought up his double when steering 5/2 shot, Malin Head, to victory in the first division of the five-year-old geldings’ maiden.
Like earlier winner Ballygarvey, Malin Head is trained by McKeever for leading owner Wilson Dennison and this Presenting gelding showed all the right qualities when forging clear from the last to hold the determined challenge of 2/1 favourite Panama Canal by half a length.
On Saturday afternoon at the county Fermanagh venue, Top Twig became the first horse to win the maximum six points this season when coasting to victory under O’Connor in the open lightweight.
Heading the market at 4/5, Top Twig simply annihilated the opposition when effortlessly drawing clear after five out to beat Villon by a very easy five lengths.
David Christie has done a wonderful job with Top Twig this season and the now 11-year-old, who races in the silks of the Sporting Pointes Syndicate, can be relied upon to garner his full complement of victories between the flags again next season.
Even-money favourite, Grigg Oak, rounded off a good day for 27-year-old O’Connor when scoring in division two of the concluding older horses’ maiden. Trained in Antrim by Ian Ferguson, this Rashar gelding was always in touch and quickly asserted when forging clear after three out to beat Talk’s Cheap by half a dozen lengths.
Awards night in Adare
Last Sunday evening’s Irish National Hunt Awards ceremony at the Dunraven Arms hotel in Adare was very much a family night with the Walsh, Carberry and Mullins families picking up the bulk of the awards on offer.
Ruby Walsh, currently on the sidelines with a broken arm, picked up the Leading Rider award for sixth year in succession and for the eighth time in the last eleven years. Walsh enjoyed another tremendous campaign and he pointed to the fact that he has the backing of two of the most powerful yards in the business, in Willie Mullins and Paul Nicholls, as the key to his ongoing success.
Walsh’s sister, Katie, was presented with a Special Achievement Award to mark her remarkable season that included riding two winners, Poker De Sivola and A Thousand Stars, at the Cheltenham Festival.
Another famous racing family, the Carberry clan, were very much to the fore at the awards night as Nina Carberry picked up the leading Lady Rider accolade while her mother, Pamela, was honoured with the National Hunt Special Award.
Willie Mullins has emerged over the past few years as a real quality trainer and the Closutton hander made a clean sweep of it when picking up all the training awards on offer. He was crowned both Champion trainer and Leading trainer while also picking up the Leading Trainer of Mares Award. Mullins’ son, Patrick, made it a great day for the famed Co Kilkenny family when again being crowned Leading Qualified Rider.
Tipperary jockey Shane Hassett is earmarked for greater things following a fine season and he was rewarded for his hard work and dedication when picking up the Leading Conditional Jockey Award.
Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary is making a huge impact on Irish racing at present and this was evidenced as he ousted perennial winner JP McManus from the number one spot to collect the Leading Owner Award.
O’Leary’s maroon and white colours of his native Westmeath have been carried to great effect by his Gigginsgtown House banner over the past few years and McManus will have a battle on his hands if he is to regain this title during the 2010/11 season.
Retired trainer Paddy Woods, who was associated with the great Arkle in his younger days, received the Contribution To The Industry Award, while his namesake, Tommy Woods, was rewarded with the Stable Staff award for his on-going contribution to the smooth running of Paul Nolan’s highly-successful Wexford yard.
The point-to-point award was won by Wexford man PM ‘Padge’ Berry, who was honoured for a magnificent training career that saw him put a lot of good horses through his hands over the years.
Guineas weekend at headquarters
This weekend sees the start of the Irish Classic season with both the Etihad Airways Irish 1,000 and Abu Dhabi Irish 2,000 Guineas taking place at The Curragh.
Saturday is 2,000 Guineas day at the Kildare track and Aidan O’Brien, who has sent out six previous winners of this race from his Ballydoyle base, appears to again hold a very strong hand. While his final line-up will not be revealed until later in the week, O’Brien has plenty of ammunition to choose from with nine of his horses among the 20 acceptors for the race.
At present, Ballydoyle’s Steinbeck top the ante-post market at 9/4, with Richard Hannon’s UK raider Canford Cliffs next best at 3/1.
Steinbeck has yet to race this year, having finished fourth in the Dewhurst Stakes last October and, while the lack of a run normally militates against a horse, coming from Ballydoyle that may not be such a big factor. He is far from a certain starter, however, and O’Brien also has the likes Jan Vermeer, Fencing Master, Viscount Nelson, Air Chief Marshall to go to war with. Riding arrangements will give punters an idea of which way the Ballydoyle ball is hopping, with Johnny Murtagh certain to have the pick of O’Brien’s talented crop.
Canford Cliffs, third behind Mafki in the Newmarket equivalent earlier this month, is a potent rival and he will make a bold bid to give in-form Richard Hannon his third success in the race having sent out previous winners’ Don’t Forget Me (1987) and Tirol in 1990.
Xtension, one place behind Canford Cliffs in the British version, is again likely to renew rivalry with the Ralph Beckett’s Oasis Dancer and the Peter Chapple-Hyam-trained pair of Morana and Zaahy completing a strong British raiding party.
Jim Bolger is triple-handed with Free Judgement, Carriaiglawan and last Sunday’s impressive Navan winner Shintoh to choose from while Tommy Stack’s Noll Wollop and Keredari from the John Oxx yard are also in the mix.
Sunday’s 1.000 Guineas sees 20 fillies’ engaged with Mick Channon’s Newmarket sixth Musical Show and Jim Bolger’s Gile Na Greine, who was doing her best work at the finish when third in the English 1,000, set to dominate the market.