Double for champion on first day of the new Ulster season

"01  Ballyarthur & Derek O'Connor - Trainer : Colin S McKeever,   Black and white qtrd"
"01 Ballyarthur & Derek O'Connor - Trainer : Colin S McKeever, Black and white qtrd"

The Tyrella point to point fixture got the new Ulster season underway on Saturday with Irish Champion rider, Derek O’Connor enjoying a double on day one, writes RON McKNIGHT.

The champion was aboard Muirhead – the multiple course winner making a winning point to point debut for Larne trainer, Stuart Crawford who was absent being confined to home with a broken leg.

The locally owned horse won the Munster National in 2011 and had finished fifth in the 2009 Champion Hurdle behind Punjabi when trained by Noel Meade. However, the Crawford brothers team appear to have instilled new vitality into the horse which won in impressive fashion and barley had to exceed first gear.

The Larne trainer advised by phone: “I have no set plan – I was very pleased with him winning on his points debut and am thinking of another point to point rather than a hunterchase – we will take it a step at a time – another run in a point to point would boost his confidence. I’ll see how he gets on and talk to the owners regarding the long term future plans before deciding.”

The winning Templepatrick based owners, Joe and Pat Sloan, were completing an across the card double with their Hostile Fire winning at Fairyhouse for trainer, Gordon Elliott and will now be aimed at the Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

The Champion rider completed his brace on the Colin McKeever trained, Ballyarthur in the geldings maiden when leading two from home to score in convincing fashion while the placed pair, Shanroe Street and Jonniesofa looking capable of collecting maidens in the near future.

Winning owner, Wilson Dennison said: “He was third on his only start in the Spring last year. He’s matured and strengthened – He’s for sale like all of mine.”

The most popular success at the East Down venue was Mr Bolt landing the winners contest.

Trained at Newry by Sean McParlan, the horse is owned by a trio of Belfast lads, Niall McCarthy, Richard Ross and Simon White who have a long association with the local points scene – assisting bookmakers and erecting pitches in advance of racing.

Mr Bolt challenged and lead before the final fence to beat the useful pair, Illusion Of Time and Johnnyofcourse. Downpatrick rider, Declan Lavery picked up the mount on the winner when the Newry trainer’s son, Noel opted to ride the third placed horse - Johnnyofcourse.

The delighted winning connections said: “He “bolted” in – Sean will try and find another opportunity for him. He’s been consistent since reverting to points.”

Handler Donnchadh Doyle and the Monbeg syndicate are regular vendors of promising point to point youngsters and have another candidate for sale after Monbeg Rose quickened to good effect to win the opening young mares maiden.

Oscar Day, with Jamie Codd in the saddle, opened her account in the older mares race for owner, Caroline Woods who is a daughter of former Strabane trainer, Lindsay Woods and the highly qualified physiotherapist includes in her clients the Irish Football team.

The winner is trained by her partner, Peter Maher – the pair unfortunately having last year lost their stable star Big Shu, which completed the Cheltenham and Punchestown Cross Country double in 2013 but could have a worthy successor in Ballyboker Bridge which belied his 20/1 odds to prove the facile winner of the opening Cross Country Chase at Punchestown on Sunday.

Mystical Knight was always at the head of affairs prior to winning and landing a gamble in the finale for Wexford trainer, Colin Bowe and stable jockey, Barry O’Neill.


First race: 1st, Monbeg Rose [Robert James] 4/1; 2nd, Lough Derg Cruise; 3rd, Taboo

5 – 8 12 ran

Second race: 1st, Ballyarthur [Derek O’Connor] 4/1; 2nd, Shanroe Street; 3rd, Jonniesofa

21/2 – head 12 ran

Third race: 1st, Mr Bolt [Declan Lavery] 8/1; 2nd, Illusion of Time; 3rd, Johnnyofcourse

21/2 – 5 8 ran

Fourth race: 1st, Muirhead [Derek O’Connor] 4/5 fav; 2nd, Highdownhill; 3rd, The Hard Hat. 6 – short head 7 ran

Fifth race: 1st, Oscar Day [Jamie Codd] 4/1; 2nd, Thistle Lane; 3rd, Serena Circle

4 – 4 12 ran

Sixth race: 1st, Mystical Knight [Barry O’Neill] 4/1; 2nd, Shanroe Boru; 3rd, Cousin Bill

3 - 3 18 ran