The Iveagh Hunt Foxhounds meeting at Maralin, County Down was the sole meeting on the Saturday and this provided one of the most impressive performances of the weekend when the Ian Ferguson-trained James took the winners event by an easy two and a half lengths under jockey Willie Thompson. The son of Jimble had been beaten eleven lengths into third on his only outing of last season at Loughanmore on good ground prior to breaking his maiden at the same track at the end of October. The six year old travelled well on this occasion prior to quickening clear after the last and this marks him out as a horse who could have a future under rules, particularly given how few horses are capable of scoring at the first attempt in winners grade. A note of caution regarding the form is the relatively early departure of two of his main market rivals in the shape of Man With Van and the maiden hurdle placed Davy From Milan who had both exited the race by the ninth fence.
The other noteworthy performance of the meeting from a rules perspective came with the Colin McBratney-trained seven year old Davyroy in the six year old and up geldings maiden. Niall McParlan did the steering on the son of Balla Cove and he quickened clear of the runner-up Kerrib Castle having led before the second last. Roy Carlisle owns the gelding and he’s run respectably in handicap company in the past and could prove capable of scoring off a mark of 105.
Trainer Donnchadh Doyle’s luck was out this past weekend with his Go Conquer coming down three from home when still in contention at Maralin and his King’s Theatre gelding Rough King falling when two lengths clear in an eight runner event at Affane the following day. The gelding was a relatively expensive purchase at twenty eight thousand euro’s at Tattersalls as a three year old in June 2012 and was making his debut in this. Having led for much of the contest the gelding held a two length advantage prior to coming down at the final fence leaving Arden Denis to claim victory. Whilst Arden Denis looks a potential rules performer at a lower level in his own right he had proven no match for the Monbeg Syndicate owned horse to this point and rough King should be noted if taking in a bumper this winter.
John Ryan’s Draycott Place was arguably the most impressive winner of the weekend when taking the Four Year Old Maiden at Ballingarry by fifteen lengths in a very fast time. The son of Oscar was having his fourth career start and appeared to have come on for his run at Glenbane at the end of last month where he fell at the last when looking held. The gelding had just the two outings in the Spring, those coming when third to Red Devil Lads at Templemore and when runner-up to Onenightinvienna at Inchydoney. The softer ground looked to be to Draycott Place’s liking on Sunday and he looks set to have a bright future under rules.
Dinnie’s Vinnie was another horse to go clear in a maiden event prior to falling at the last when contesting the Five and Six Year Old Geldings Maiden at Ballingarry on Sunday. The Denis Cusack-owned gelding was returning from a nineteen month lay-off having pulled up behind Thomond in a four year old event at Kilmallock on his second career start in April 2012 and having raced in mid-division for much of this contest he went clear entering the straight prior to falling at the last.
The other impressive performance on the Ballingarry card came from Friends In Time who ran out the easy winner of the Six Year Olds And Up Geldings Maiden by ten lengths in an eighteen horse field. Friends In Time made progress mid-race and led entering the straight prior to quickening clear in the closing stages. This probably wasn’t the strongest of races with the runner-up Jack Aboo showing a marked improvement in form here having finished well beaten in three bumpers and a distant second in a four runner field at Rockfield two weeks ago.
The pointing action this weekend takes place at Lingstown in County Wexford and Boulta in Cork with the following weekend marking the start of the British season and what looks set to be a good weekend’s action with four meetings, two on each side of the Irish Sea.
A number of pointers go to post in the finale at Market Rasen on Thursday with Kilcooley representing Charlie Longsdon being one who already has useful form under rules having finished runner-up on his debut in this sphere at Carlisle last month following up a solid second at Dromahane in March. Of his rivals the Steve Gollings stable do well at this track and are represented by owner Pat Martin’s Ballysteen winner Jac The Legend. Jac the Legend won by five lengths on that occasion and he looks likely to play a hand here despite the form of that maiden success not working out.
Friday could see the return to hurdles of last season’s five time point scorer Sybarite for trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies. The French-bred seven year old raced for the Phil Rowley yard last season where he started his campaign with a solid success at Larkhill and it’s somewhat surprising to see him entered over hurdles here, particularly in light of him looking well handicapped off a mark of 120 over fences based on his pointing form. Sybarite also holds an entry in a Fixed Brush Novice’s Hurdle at Haydock on the same afternoon.
Should Sybarite head to Haydock he could face some fellow ex-pointers in the shape of impressive Huntingdon bumper winner Urban Hymnwho broke his maiden at the third attempt in the UK last season and Medieval Chapel who took a while to find his feet in points but scored on his last two outings for Ian Ferguson prior to joining Nicky Henderson. The entry of Classic Move who scored at Guilsborough in April prior to two useful performances when third at Punchestown and when easily winning a bumper at Sedgefield adds spice to what could prove to be a hot field for a race of this nature.
In the concluding Huntingdon bumper this coming Saturday the Charlie Longsdon-trained Battle Born and the Jonjo O’Neill-trained Fort Worth could renew rivalry having finished second and fourth respectively in a Dromahane maiden back in the Spring. Both yards have their fair share of bumper winners and it’s interesting to note that Fort Worth is likely to carry the dark blue John Magnier colours most frequently seen on the backs of Aidan O’Brien trained bluebloods.