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O’Connor shines at Belharbour

Derek O’Connor was the star performer at last Sunday’s County Clare hunt point-to-point at Belharbour, where the Tubber jockey thrilled his huge home following with a top-class display in the saddle that yielded four winners.
Racing gets underway at Belhabour.The six-time champion was fast off the mark when taking the opening four-year-old maiden aboard Pat Doyle’s hot-pot Faultless Feelings.
Sent off a 4/7 shot, this son of Milan was toying with his four rivals for most of this two and-a-half mile contest before easing clear from the home turn to beat Westmeath raider Banksanditches (Ciaran Murphy) by six lengths.
The winner, who carried the silks of Tipperary veterinary surgeon John Halley, looks an exciting recruit and his next outing will be in a bumper.
Half an hour later, O’Connor was back in the number one berth as another market leader, The Taxi Driver (4/6f), did the business in the nine-runner confined maiden.
O’Connor oozed confidence on this son of Wizard King and, once he set his mount alight after two out, he breezed clear for an emphatic eight-length win over Paddy Hassett’s Macs Lad (Colm Murray). Clear Blue Sky, trained in Quin by John O’Neill and ridden by his son Paul, who had signalled a return to form when giving 5/2 shot Walkin Aisy a power-packed ride to land the open lightweight at the Killashee, County Longford meeting the previous afternoon, filled third five lengths in rear.
A recent purchase by Michael McDonagh from Cratloe, The Taxi Driver is trained for him by Raymond Lee at his Gort stables and the winner will contest a bumper over the next few weeks.
Quin trainer Brian Hassett provided six-time champion O’Connor with his third success of the afternoon when giving him the leg-up on the well-backed Shantalla (2/1-5/4f), who ran out a snug winner of the six-year-old geldings’ maiden.
A faller on his debut at Nenagh two weeks earlier, Shantalla made no mistake here when running on from the final fence to hold the challenge of runner-up Another Flutter by two lengths.
O’Connor, who had tasted success up north when steering Wilson Dennison’s 6/4 favourite Burnthill to victory in the first division of the five-year-old maiden at the Tyrella, County Down fixture 24 hours earlier, moved on to the 39-winner mark for the season when completing his four-timer aboard Sea Of Thunder in the winners’ race.
The Old Vic-sired winner, who runs under Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown House banner, was most impressive as the even-money favourite took a six-length success over Pauline Gavin’s previous course winner, Sang Bleu.
A point-to-point bumper sponsored by O’Leary at Fairyhouse over Easter will be Sea Of Thunder’s next assignment, according to Pat Doyle who was completing a training double. 
Tipperary rider Johnny King was the only other jockey to feature and he left this well-attended fixture with two winners. His first success came in the five-year-old geldings’ maiden, where Shan Blue, trained in Upton, County Cork by Mary Twohig for her husband Fergus, landed a gamble (10/1-5/1) when making a winning debut.
This was a really exciting contest and the winner had to pull out all the stops in the closing stages to repel the consistent challenge of the Tom Costello-trained eye-catcher Maringo Bay by a length.
King completed his double in the concluding five-year-old and upwards mares’ maiden, where Miltown Malbay trainer Danny Howard recorded a popular local success with 5/1 shot Clogher Cailin.
Owned by a group of racing enthusiasts from the West Clare area that includes Dinny Gould, James O’Friel, Paddy Cooney and Tommy McMahon, this daughter of Old Vic races in the colours of the Malbay Dreamers Syndicate and they were celebrating after she overcame a 259-day absence to beat The Colleen Ban by eight lengths.
Howard, who rode a host of winners when attached to the Arthur Moore yard, has five horses in training at present and this mare will now be aimed at a winners’ race.
Meanwhile, there was a Clare connection to proceedings at the West Waterford point-to-point meeting at Tallow last Sunday, where 5/2 shot That Will Do scored for Killanena native Frank O’Meara in the first division of the five and six-year-old mares’ maiden.
O’Meara, who now resides in Oughterard, County Galway, operates a horse transport business and he was present to see his colours carried to success by the Jimmy Mangan-trained daughter of Norwich, who benefitted from a strong ride from in-form jockey Damian Murphy to beat runner-up Avondhu Lady by a neck.
O’Neill Bookmakers four-year-old maiden. Two and a half miles.
1) John Halley’s Faultless Feelings b g (Milan-Duchess of Cork) 11-7 Mr D O’Connor.
2) Ciaran M Murphy’s Banksanditches 11-7 Mr CM Murphy.
3) Monereagh Syndicate’s Nally Dancer 11-7 Mr JG Ivors.
5 Ran. Dist: 6L. 1L. Dist. Winner trained in Holycross, County Tipperary by Pat Doyle.
­Bernard Gillane & Co Ltd Confined Maiden. Three miles.
1) Michael J McDonagh’s The Taxi Driver b g (Wizard King-Phar Closer) 5 12-0 Mr D O’Connor.
2) PJ Hassett’s Macs Lad 12-0 Mr CJ Murray
3) John F O’Neill’s Clear Blue Sky 12-0 Mr PJ O’Neill
9 Ran. Dist: 10L. 5L. 10L. Winner trained in Gort by Raymond Lee.
Pier Head Bar & Restaurant five-year-old geldings’ maiden. Three miles.
1) F Twohig’s Shan Blue ch g (Anshan-River Runs Blue) 12-0 Mr JJ King
2) David McCarthy’s Maringo Bay 12-0 Mr JT McNamara
3) John Shanahan’s Littlesilverfishes 12-0 Mr AP Kelly
13 Ran. Dist: 1L. 3L. Dist. Winner trained in Upton, Co Cork by Mrs Mary Twohig.
Heineken six-year-old geldings’ maiden. Three miles.
1) Anthony Glavin’s Shantalla b g (Oscar Schindler-Mrs O’Hara) 12-0 Mr D O’Connor.
2) Thomond Racing Syndicate’s Another Flutter 12-0 Mr JT McNamara.
3) M O’Cullinane’s He’s A Delight 12-0 Mr RP Geoghegan
8 Ran. Dist: 2L. 1/2L. 2L. Winner trained in Quin by Brian Hassett.
Peter Healy & John Curley & Co Ltd winners of one. Three miles.
1) Gigginstown House Stud’s Sea Of Thunder b g (Old Vic-Snob’s Supreme) 12-0 Mr D O’Connor
2) Donal Gavin’s Sang Bleu 12-0 Mr JJ King
3) Paul Forde’s Manthatwasclose 12-0 Mr RP Geoghegan
11Ran. Dist: 6L. 8L. 1L. Winner trained in Tipperary by Pat Doyle.
Gain Mares Series five-year-old and upwards mares’ maiden.  Three miles.
1) Malbay Dreamers Syndicate’s Clogher Cailin b m (Old Vic-Garryduff Appeal) 7 12-0 Mr JJ King
2) Ben O’Sullivan’s The Colleen Ban 12-0 Mr JG Ivors
3) David Ryan’s Colours Of Autumn 12-0 Mr JT McNamara.
17 Ran. Dist 6L. 8L. 1L. Winner trained in Miltown Malbay by Danny Howard.
Going: Good/Yielding

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