New Ballymena venue proves a hit

Pictured at the official opening of the new Ballymena point to point course are Brenda Ross, Judith Hamilton, Patsy Morrogh and Jane Ferguson.

Pictured at the official opening of the new Ballymena point to point course are Brenda Ross, Judith Hamilton, Patsy Morrogh and Jane Ferguson.

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The new Mid-Antrim point to point venue at Ballymena proved a resounding success on Saturday.

Aided by day-long sunshine, the meeting attracted a major local turnout in addition to regular points supporters to provide the biggest attendance in recent years at the fixture.

Mr Bolt [Noel McParlan] has success assured leading The Hard Hat over the final fence in the feature race.

Mr Bolt [Noel McParlan] has success assured leading The Hard Hat over the final fence in the feature race.

The track and conditions got the “thumbs up” from all the major industry players.

Mr Bolt is supplying considerable success and fun for the syndicate of Belfast based lads who own the Sean McParlan trained horse which easily stepped up to open class when landing the feature with the Silverbridge based trainer’s son and former Ulster Region champion, Noel, aboard.

The winner having been always prominent was produced at the penultimate fence prior to readily holding the challenge of runner-up and favourite, The Hard Hat.

McParlan senior said: “I’m delighted for the lads. He handled the step up in company well and I’ll look for another open race.”

Noel McParlan who was completing a double at the new track is now one behind the joint leaders – Derek O’Connor and Barry O’Neill – in the local riders championship with fourteen winners.

Cullybackey trainer Ian Ferguson, who has played a major role in organising the new venue, appropriately gained a winner and completed the brace for McParlan when Kinley gained the advantage at the second last to beat favourite, Wither Or Not.

The winner is owned by Jane and Alison Millar, from Coleraine, and the winning trainer said: “That’s the first horse for the owners and I’m delighted he won today. He’ll probably run through the summer over hurdles and hopefully give them plenty of fun.”

All-Ireland Champion rider Jamie Codd was on the mark when landing the opener on Born Survivor yet again relegating the favourite, Some Are Lucky, into second. The well-bred newcomer showed the best turn of foot in the closing stages to prevail.

Multiple All-Ireland Champion Derek O’Connor was another in double form at Ballymena when winning the hunt contest on Merrydown Black, owned by leading Ulster owners the Templepatrick based, Sloan family.

Trainer Stuart Crawford advised: “He was due that one – I’ll talk to the owners but probably aim at a winners race in the next few weeks.”

The Champion rider doubled up in the finale when making nearly all the running on Festive Day to score.

Kinnacally provided a winner for Co Antrim trainer Paul McAleese in the mares maiden while supplying rider Paul Power with his sixth victory of the current season.

Judith Hamilton, organiser of the Mid Antrim meeting, said at the conclusion of racing: “We’re delighted with today’s attendance and the local support which have made this the best ever fixture. My thanks to all the sponsors and those who have worked on the course.”