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Title chasing O'Neill aiming to break Ireland's duck

Title chasing O'Neill aiming to break Ireland's duck

BARRY O'Neill is hoping to transfer his success at home to bring Ireland a first victory in the Bicester Office Park Anglo-Irish Point-to-Point Challenge at Kingston Blount in Oxfordshire on Friday, May 26 (4pm).

The 28-year-old tops the riders' standings in Ireland as he bids to break Derek O'Connor and Jamie Codd's 13-year stranglehold on the championship.

He will take time off from chasing a first title next week, though, to represent Ireland's men's team along with his two great rivals and Noel McParlan as the visitors seek to end Great Britain's four-year winning streak.

O'Neill, an ever-present in the annual jockeys' competition, believes his form in Ireland stands him in good stead for this year's challenge.

"It gives you great confidence, and I'm hoping that I can be the one to win it for the Irish team this year," he said.

"It would mean everything for me to win the title this year. It's what I work so hard all year to try and achieve.

"It's a great honour to ride for Ireland and I'm delighted to be selected. I am very much looking forward to heading over.

"It's great to be in the position to have been chosen every year. Hopefully we can come out on top this time."

At the same time, O'Neill, from Kiltealy in County Wexford, has plenty of respect for the British men's team, which consists of Will Biddick, Alex Edwards, John Dawson and Evan David.

"They're a great bunch of riders, but obviously we're hoping we can turn things around and win it this year," he added.

"I have never ridden there before, but I here it's a great track.

"It's all down to the luck of the draw really. The best horse 99 per cent of the time will win the race."

O'Connor expects Britain to provide tough opposition once again.

The 11-times champion, from Galway, said: "It is difficult to be confident up against such a team. The GB team have great depth and experience."

O'Connor will also be paying his first visit to Kingston Blount, and he added: "To be familiar with the track and course is a huge help."

He has ridden winners in the last two challenges, partnering Part And Parcel to victory at Chaddesley Corbett and Vulgans Watch at Inch.

And, like O'Neill, O'Connor, who has clocked up more than 1,100 winners between the flags, feels the draw will be crucial.

"You're only as good as the horse below you," he said quoting the old adage.

 

HOW THEY LINE-UP

Great Britain – men: Will Biddick, Alex Edwards, John Dawson, Evan David; ladies: Gina Andrews, Bryony Frost, Claire Hardwick, Tabitha Worsley.

Ireland – men: Barry O'Neill, Jamie Codd, Derek O'Connor, Noel McParlan; ladies: Shauna Larkin, Lisa O'Neill, Liz Lalor, Maxine O'Sullivan.

 

BICESTER OFFICE PARK ANGLO-IRISH CHALLENGE RACE PROGRAMME

Friday, May 26, 2017

4.00 Betfair Men's Open

4.35 Goffs UK Anglo-Irish Club Members Conditions Race for Gentlemen Riders

5.10 Bicester Office Park Anglo-Irish Ladies Open

5.45 Tattersalls Ireland Anglo-Irish Four, Five & Six-Year-Olds Maiden Race for Gentlemen Riders

6.20 Connolly's Red Mills Anglo-Irish Intermediate Race for Lady Riders

7.05 The Kingston Blount Racing Club Members Conditions Race for Novice Riders

 

ANGLO-IRISH CHALLENGE BACKGROUND

This will be the fifth year the challenge has taken place with Great Britain having won on the previous four occasions.

Britain took the inaugural contest in 2013 at Tattersalls in County Meath, before successfully defending their crown at Fairyhouse the following year.

A hat-trick of wins was completed when the jockeys' challenge came to these shores for the first time in 2015 at Chaddesley Corbett in Worcestershire.

And Britain made it a four-timer at Inch, near Tallow, in County Cork, last year.

The riders will compete in four races - two for men and two for women - twice the number of previous years.

As well as the four races in the Anglo-Irish Challenge there will be two supporting contests, with a 4pm start.

There will also be a party after racing with live music, a cash bar and food outlets.

With Kingston Blount also hosting the traditional Berks & Bucks And Staff College & RMAS Draghounds meeting on Sunday, May 28, it promises to be a busy weekend for the popular Oxfordshire track.

 

HOW THE ANGLO-IRISH CHALLENGE WORKS

The two teams consist of eight riders each - four men and four ladies. There are four races - two for men and two for ladies. The riders and horses will be drawn before each race. The points scoring system is: 1st 12pts, 2nd 8, 3rd 5, 4th 3. In the event of a non-runner three points will be awarded. The team which accumulates the most points wins the challenge.

 

KINGSTON BLOUNT POINT-TO-POINT RACECOURSE

Kingston Blount Racecourse was founded in 1971 and now stages four point-to-point meetings each season - with that figure increased to five this term with the Anglo-Irish Challenge. It is an undulating course, with a steep climb after the 5th and the 13th fences in three-mile races and a downhill run before the 6th and 14th fences. It is very well cared for with watering available and the ground is rarely firm, even at later meetings. Car parking is good, with a downhill exit if wet. There is good viewing from the slope above the finish.

The course is located at Kingston Grove, Kingston Blount OX39 4SG, approximately eight miles NW of High Wycombe and well signposted off the B4009 towards Chinnor, leaving the M40 at J6. For safety reasons, it's advised not to leave the M40 at J5 as the descent down Kingston Hill is both narrow and steep. For the same reason, it's also advised against parking on Kingston Hill.

Admission to all meetings this season at Kingston Blount is £10 per person – under-18s go free. Entry to the reserved car park is £40 per car, subject to availability. Pedestrian entry is also £10. There is no longer any parking in the area over the road adjacent to the horsebox park.

 


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