Cork racing: Ten of the best local triumphs across the national hunt season

Cork racing: Ten of the best local triumphs across the national hunt season
Great White Shark and Jody Townend win for trainer Willie Mullins. Picture: Healy Racing.

THE 2019-20 National Hunt season was brought to an earlier-than-usual conclusion, but it still managed to produce multiple local successes, mixed with a number of heart-warming stories.

Here are 10 of the best...

Paul Townend:

The Lisgoold rider was crowned champion jockey, for the third time, surpassing the century mark for the second consecutive season. He was also leading rider at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival, following a countback, and he booted home five winners at grade one level, across the meeting; among them a second consecutive triumph in the Gold Cup, courtesy of Al Boum Photo.

Picture: Tim Goode/PA Wire.
Picture: Tim Goode/PA Wire.

Darragh O’Keeffe:

The champion conditional rider claimed the jockeys title, with a record 45 winners.

Across 2019-20, the Doneraile man won the Cork National aboard The Gatechecker, bagged a hat-trick of Galway festival wins, and was perched in the top-five in the leading jockeys' table when play came to an end.

Jody Townend:

Produced one of the most heart-warming stories of the entire season, with her comeback Galway festival win, aboard Willie Mullins’ Great White Shark.

The east Cork jockey, a younger sister of Paul, had suffered broken vertebrae the previous autumn and was forced to endure a lengthy spell on the sidelines, after suffering complications following surgery.

She announced her return by bagging the biggest win of her fledgling career, in the Connacht Hotel Amateur Riders’ Handicap.

Jody Townend celebrates. Picture: Healy Racing.
Jody Townend celebrates. Picture: Healy Racing.

It Came To Pass:

Won the Foxhunters’ at Cheltenham in superb style, defying odds of 66/1, and handing the Lombardstown father/daughter combination of Eugene and Maxine O’Sullivan a memorable success; 29 years on from the O’Sullivan family’s win in the same race with Lovely Citizen.

It Came To Pass was foaled in Cork, bred by east Cork’s Edmond Coleman.

Terence O’Brien:

Recorded his best season in terms of prize money, with the trainer’s eight winners for the campaign accumulating over €215,000. The Carrigtwohill handler won with his final runner of the season, when new recruit, Ask Heather, in a handicap chase at Clonmel.

Ask Heather ridden by Simon Torrens winning ahead of Robin Deuz Pois ridden by Sean O’Keeffe. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane
Ask Heather ridden by Simon Torrens winning ahead of Robin Deuz Pois ridden by Sean O’Keeffe. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

Joe Donnelly:

Cork owners, Joe and Marie Donnelly, witnessed their yellow and black silks carried to big-race success again, at Cheltenham, with their Al Boum Photo and Shiskin winning the Gold Cup and Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, respectively.

Other Donnelly-owned charges, horses such as Melon and The Big Getaway, ran big races in defeat, at the Cotswolds.

Shishkin and Nico De Boinville after winning the Sky Bet Supreme Novice Hurdle. Picture: Healy Racing
Shishkin and Nico De Boinville after winning the Sky Bet Supreme Novice Hurdle. Picture: Healy Racing

Gavin Sheehan:

Went to Cheltenham with a strong book of rides, and he certainly rose to the occasion. The Dunmanway native added another Festival success to his ever-growing CV, with Simply The Betts, in the Plate, and he also finished second, third and fourth, aboard Saint Calvados in the Ryanair, Rouge Vif in the Arkle and Emitom in the Stayers’ Hurdle, respectively.

Among the top ten riders in Britain, he performed at an impressive 20% strike rate, partnering 70 winners for the season.

Aidan Coleman:

The Innishannon man operated at a 20% strike rate, and he was also among the winners at the Festival, delivering Put The Kettle On to success, in the Arkle Chase. Sixth in the jockeys’ table in Britain, Coleman booted home 82 winners across 2019-20.

Put The Kettle On, with Aidan Coleman up, jumps the last on their way to winning the Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices' Chase. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Put The Kettle On, with Aidan Coleman up, jumps the last on their way to winning the Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices' Chase. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Davy Russell:

The Youghal man was second in the Irish jockeys’ standings, with 69 winners for the campaign. The Grand National winning-rider enjoyed another excellent Cheltenham Festival, with a hat-trick of wins at the meeting. Landed top-level Festival prizes on Samcro and Envoi Allen, and won the Grand Annual aboard Chosen Mate.

Un De Sceaux

The 10-time grade one-winner, Un De Sceaux, was retired this season, but he signed out on a positive note, and in one piece. Owned by the O’Connell Family in Glanmire, their 12-year-old star finished a gutsy second in a brace of grade one contests, behind Defi Du Seuil, this season, before connections called time on his glittering 34-race career.

Defi Du Seuil ridden by Barry Geraghty wins The Class One Betfair TingleCreek Steeple Chase ahead of Un De Sceaux ridden by Paul Townsend. Picture: Mark Kerton/PA Wire
Defi Du Seuil ridden by Barry Geraghty wins The Class One Betfair TingleCreek Steeple Chase ahead of Un De Sceaux ridden by Paul Townsend. Picture: Mark Kerton/PA Wire

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