THE new point-to-point season is almost upon us, much to the delight of trainer Debbie Hartnett.
The Donoughmore native endured a challenging time, following the shutdown of racing, and saw the number of horses at her stables whittled down.
However, her yard is back to some level of normality nowadays, and she is raring to go to battle, with her promising string of runners.
She had been ready to race a number of her young pointers, last spring, but was forced to do a rethink, due to the cancellation of the point-to-point season.
Racing inside the rails has since resumed, and point-to-pointing is set to follow suit, in just over a week’s time. After that, Dromahane will host the first local fixture of the season, on October 11.
The north Cork venue will also play host to an auction maiden race for four-year-olds, alongside another four-year-old maiden, on October 25, as part of a revamp to the pre-Christmas schedule.
“It’s all systems go, which is great to see, and we’re hopeful anyway.
“There’s a mighty programme of fixtures; 37 point-to-points from the middle of September to the middle of December.
“As regards racing, HRI and the Turf Club have done everything they can.
“They created these races, there are a lot more opportunities.
“They have got in a position to get it going; for owners, trainers, and the sales.
“It is hugely important that it starts on September 19 and that everyone keeps in line and we do what we are supposed to do.
“It has to happen. We were ready to rock ‘n’ roll in March. [The lockdown period] was awful, but everyone is in the same boat,” the trainer said.
It will arguably be the most-competitive autumn for some time, considering the backlog. But, Hartnett’s team of horses are coming along nicely, ahead of their intended targets.
Their starting point is likely to be at Cork’s premier point-to-point track, next month.
“As it stands, we have a lovely yard of horses. The horses are in since July 1. We are ready to go. Our plan is October 11 in Dromahane.
“That’s the plan, but that is ground permitting, as we don’t want to run them on lively ground.
“We have seven for point-to-pointing; five have never run, one is a winner and the other ran once.
“They are four-year-olds and five-year-olds that didn’t get an opportunity to run [last season].
“Once the ground gets easy, they will do a schooling bumper. Two weeks later, they are going [racing].
“Going back point-to-pointing, you need more than good luck; you need a bloody good horse. There is going to be a hullaballoo of horses running. I’d say the races will divide, every Sunday,” she said.
Among the charges at Hartnett’s Cork yard, where she trains alongside her partner, John O’Brien, are Babylon Beach, Captain Clippo, and Coillte Croga.
“Captain Clippo is an unraced, five-year-old. We like him a lot. He’s related to a good horse, Golden Taipan, who is after winning races for Fergal O’Brien.
“He’s a lovely, National Hunt type. Babylon Beach is our dream horse — we are still dreaming! He’s a very good horse, has had his problems, but we are on target and are delighted with him. He’ll go to Dromahane.
“Coillte Croga is a Shirocco filly, owned by the most-fabulous owner in Aghabullogue, who is on the point-to-point committee.
“She’s a lovely filly and has improved from the break. She has come back a new mare. She will go to Dromahane. Tell The Truth is a four-year-old Imperial Monarch filly.
“She’s a lovely, big, rangy filly. She is doing everything right and is very straightforward. My Forever Friend is a winners’ horse, and he was up with Shark Hanlon.
“He is a 12-year-old. Since he had the four months off, he is like a spring chicken! He is unreal. The other two aren’t named yet. They will probably run around November-time.
“These horses are all capable of winning a point within a couple of months. You’d hope that what they are showing you [at home] is what they’ll do [on the track].”