Brosna (F) at Durrow, Sunday 25th March
It proved to be a day to remember British rider Emma Smith-Chaston who on just her first ride in a point-to-point on this side of the Irish Sea, was on the scoreboard when Festival Opera ran out an eight length winner of the Tom Malone Bloodstock winner of one contest in the colours of his handler Philip Dempsey. It was a stellar training performance by the Kildare native, as the son of Milan was returning from a long layoff, having last been seen in action at the nearby Kilbeggan In 2016. Smith-Chaston who is now based with the Carbury handler stated afterwards: ‘Philip said that I could have the horse for a bit of fun and to get some experience pointing here, so we have just been getting him ready slowly. He was ready to run last month but I had a slight issue with my license, so he was only meant to come here for a run around, but I wasn’t going to pull him up anyway.’
The opening ITBA and Dunnes Stores five-year-old mares’ maiden was not without drama as Burn Baby Byrne and Devito’sredrobin battled it out from well before final fence. It was the Shirley Berry-trained Burn Baby Byrne who was first past the post, but after a lengthy steward’s enquiry, her rider Harley Dunne was found guilty of dangerous riding having got close to the runner up approaching the final fence. Shane Byrnes’ charge Devito’sredrobin, who was deemed the winner, was not winning out of turn having showed plenty of promise on her last outing at Ballyarthur when only just touched off by a neck.
The Glenwood, Tullamore seven-year-old and upwards mares maiden attracted the biggest field of the day with fifteen runners going to post and it was the Mark Scallan-trained Rainbows At Dawn who came out on top in the hands of rider and owner Andrew Walsh. The daughter of Black Sam Bellamy had shown some form before coming to grief on her three starts this season and the seven-year-old relished conditions at the Offaly track and ran out a convincing four length winner. An elated Walsh stated afterwards; ‘She has had jumping problems but thank god she was good today. She is always very keen, every day that you ride her she is always the same. I will probably keep her and look to go on to a winners’ race now.’
Jody Townend partnered her third winner of the season when landing the Glenwood, Tullamore and Connolly’s Red Mills Ladies Open Lightweight aboard the Tommy O’Neill trained Grianan Fidh. Townend, who was prominent for most aboard the son of Portrait Gallery, kicked clear of her rivals from the third-last and in a matter strides had the race sewn-up, as she ran out a 12-length winner. This win now moves Townend into second in the race for the Ladies title, four behind reigning champion Liz Lalor. ‘He did that well and Jody gave him a super ride,’ reported the winning handler. ‘He was second at Dowth on his first run for me and then he got a bit of leg trouble so we left him off for a while. It is the first time that we have had him super fit and he has done it well.’
Despite only six runners going to post in the Coolmore NH and Tullamore Agri five-year-old and upwards adjacent maiden, Donjon was the sole finisher in the hands of Aaron Murphy. Broadway Star from the Aidan Howard stable looked to be his only danger in the straight, but the son of Robin Des Champ found conditions too testing and was pulled-up before the final fence. The Ciaran Murphy trained winners carried the familiar colours of Chris Donnelly who has been associated with many top horses in the past. A delighted Murphy reported afterwards; ‘He is a bit off being ready now but we just took the chance in running him as it looked a very nice opportunity for him. I got him at the end of last season. In fairness to Gordon (Elliott), he told the owners to send him down to me as he just needed a bit of extra time, so it’s all Gordon’s doing that I got him. I’m not sure if he will go to the sales or if we will keep point-to-pointing for the season, I’ll talk to Chris (Donnelly) about it.’
The consistent Clutch had been knocking on the door for some time, and he repaid his connections faith when taking the concluding Kepak and Rathbarry & Glenview Studs seven-year-old and upwards geldings maiden in the hands of Paul Cawley. The nine-year-old son of Bach carried his Tipperary handler Jim Flaherty’s colours to victory. ‘He got a bit of a leg after he was second in Ballingarry and we gave him a season off. He needed the run back at Bellharbour the last day, but he did it well there,’ reported the three horse handler who is a farmer from Moneygall, who will now look for a winners’ contest for his charge.