THE 2020-'21 point-to-point season resumed behind closed doors with a Duhallow Foxhounds meeting at Cork racecourse on Saturday.
There were no less than eight races with some 93 runners and Castlemartyr-based handler Mattie Collins appears to have a most progressive sort on his hands in the form of Harvie Wallbanger who made a taking winning debut in the first division of the five-year-old geldings’ maiden.
Harvie Wallbanger was always positioned quite close to the pace and he moved through to dispute the running with long-time leader Wilston Wolf on the approach to the penultimate of the 14 obstacles. Wilston Wolf however fell here and the winning son of Mahler was then left clear with Chris O’Donovan to beat Charlie Uberalles by 15 lengths in the colours of the trainer’s former amateur rider son Pat Collins.
“He’s a lovely horse that has improved in his work at home for the bit of nice ground,“ said handler Collins. "He’s a beautiful mover and he will now go to the sales."
Clonmel hotelier John Nallen, who of course started off last month’s Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Minella Indo in points in 2018, sent out Minella Crooner to make a triumphant career debut in the second division of this same contest in the hands of Johnny Barry.
With the frontrunning A Thousand Sparks falling when joined two out, Minella Crooner had little difficulty in asserting inside the final 100 yards to beat Scipion by two and a half lengths.
Nallen, who still has some seven or eight horses to run this season, reported of the Shantou-sired Minella Crooner: ”He has just needed time to come to himself and he will now go to the sales.“
Rosemary Connors, who is very well known in horse showing circles, sent out a first winner from her Woodstown base in east Waterford base when Ingenious Stroke made all the running in the third and final division of the five-year-old geldings’ maiden. The Jet Away-sired Ingenious Stroke, who shaped well by coming sixth on his initial outing at Ballycrystal back in October, held on admirably with Darragh Allen to deny the closing Loughderg Rocco by three parts of a length.
Ingenious Stroke is owned by Henry Carey from Tramore and he remarked: ”We bought him privately as a three-year-old and he will now be sold.“
The remaining five races were all won by Wexford horses and the Doyle brothers from Ballindaggin as in Sean, Cormac and Donnchadh most meritoriously trained a winner apiece.
Sean Doyle, who started off the likes of Holywell and Invitation Only in points, was on the mark with newcomer American Mike in the first division of the four-year-old geldings’ maiden. The Mahler-sired American Mike picked up the running with Jamie Scallan before two out to see off High Class Hero by 20 lengths.
Cormac Doyle, the youngest of the siblings, was the next to figure on the scresheet as he won the second installment of this same contest with the Westerner-sired debutant Cool Survivor. The white-faced Cool Survivor led from the third last with Jack Hendrick to account for Serious Charges by four lengths.
Donnchadh Doyle, a former point-to-point champion handler, then kept his supporters happy by saddling First Glance to oblige in the first division of the five-year-old mares’ maiden.
The British-bred First Glance, who pulled up on her only previous start behind subsequent Cheltenham festival runner-up Magic Daze at Curraghmore in October, made most of the running with James Walsh to thwart Ramble West by three parts of a length.
Ramble West’s handler Colin Bowe experienced better fortune in the four-year-old mares’ maiden as his recent Punchestown bumper runner-up Jenny Flex, representing Brian Acheson, was always at the head of affairs with Barry O’Neill en-route to dismissing stable companion Harry’s Hottie by 10 lengths in the four-year-old mares’ maiden.
Scarlet Witch, trained by Denis Murphy for Edelle Logan, atoned for her third-last fence fall at Borris in November by returning to the coveted number one slot with Luke Murphy in the second division of the five-year-old mares’ maiden. The French-bred Scarlet Witch held a three parts of a length advantage over Peters Peppy when the latter fell at the last.
The previous point-to-point meeting at Cork Racecourse took place back in 1998 and Jimmy Mangan’s subsequent Aintree Grand National hero Monty’s Pass was among the winners on that spring afternoon at the Mallow circuit almost 23 years ago.