Hunter Cert Watch | Open division taking shape

As the countdown to the 2018/19 point-to-point season, which gets underway at Toomebridge and Castletown-Geoghegan on the weekend of October 6th and 7th , begins to intensify, the early indications are that many of the big players within the open division will be out in force in the early weeks of the autumn campaign.

It was a very similar story 12 months ago, with the first open lightweight of the season at Castletown-Geoghegan, proving to be arguably one of the best races of the season. That 12-runner race which was claimed by Eugene O’Sullivan’s A Decent Excuse, saw six horses complete, among them, were the reigning champion pointer Ourmanmassini (fourth), and what would become the champion hunter chaser, Gilgamboa (fifth). All six of those finishers went on to win races later in the season.

Last season’s champion point-to-pointer Sydney Paget leads the line-up, with the son of Flemensfirth out to extend his winning run past the eight consecutive races that he moped up from Aghabulloge in early January to Dromahane four months later.

Pat Doyle’s 11-year-old suffered two defeats last autumn on his return from an absence, and both of his conquerors, Ourmanmassini and Eddies Miracle, will be out to achieve early autumn success in 2018.

Ourmanmassini ensures that the last two champion point-to-pointers already have their hunter certificates out, with Peter Flood’s 10-year-old looking to put some disappointing outings in end of season hunter chases behind him.

Now an eight-time winner, Eddies Miracle will be among his hander David Christie’s typically strong line-up of open performers, with stable companion Vinnie Luck, a three-time winner last spring, also among the early hunter certs.

Champion Hunter Chase Gilgamboa was not seen since defeating Burning Ambition at Punchestown in mid-February, and is set to return for Enda Bolger and JP McManus, having also run in that Castletown open on his pointing debut 12 months ago.

Among the other returning names are former Grade 3 winner Art Of Logistics, who spend last season on the sidelines, Barbour Cup runner-up Samanntom, five-time winner Longhouse Music, and After Eight Sivola, who won the final open of the 2017/18 season.

Co. Down handler Colin McBratney has introduced a number of former classy track performers from the Willie Mullins to the open division, including Marito and Felix Yonger.

Arbre De Vie is that latest horse to make the switch from Closutton, having been last seen in the Ricci colours running at the Dublin Racing Festival in February. Top rated 150 after defeating Shaneshill at the Galway Races, the eight-year-old has run at three Cheltenham Festivals, and is sure to be of interest to many ahead of his pointing debut in the coming weeks.

Vincent Halley could also be set to return his stable stalwart Arctic Skipper to the point-to-point fields, with the son of Flemensfirth having his four-year-old maiden on debut at Glenbane before going on to also achieve a peak track rating of 150 when defeating none other than Gilgamboa in the Grade 2 Fortria Chase at Navan in 2016.

The now nine-year-old was last seen in competitive action when running in the Grade 1 Punchestown Gold Cup in late April.

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