IT was another great week for Cork jockeys at the Punchestown Festival.
Rising star Darragh O'Keeffe once again showed racing fans that he is going all the way to the very top.
O'Keeffe gave Surprise Package an absolute peach of a ride to win the Connolly's Red Mills Irish EBF Auction Hurdle Series Final on Wednesday. The 14/1 victor certainly didn’t go un-backed at bigger prices earlier, and those that invested were on good terms with themselves when the winner got on terms after two out travelling well and led entering the straight.
From there, it was straightforward, and the winner could be worth following going forward. At the line, Surprise Package was six lengths clear of its nearest rival.
“He jumped super the whole way, travelled great, and even at the third last and second last I was hanging on to him and hanging on to him and I was probably there a bit soon,” reported O’Keeffe.
“He was in such a good rhythm. He pricked his ears at the last and jumped it well and quickened up nicely.
“Peter Fahey is very shrewd, he’s had a brilliant season, and I’m delighted to get a winner on the board for him.”
O’Keeffe, who was champion conditional rider in the 2019/20 season, has enjoyed another marvellous year.
Before a wonderful victory at the Savills Steeplechase at Leopardstown in December, O'Keeffe had yet to ride in a Grade One and what a fabulous ride he gave the Henry De Bromhead trained winner. The 2020 Savill's Chase has been described by commentators as one of the greatest races to take place on Irish soil.
Another jockey in superb form in recent times is the very talented Jody Townend. The Lisgoold jockey has developed into a magnificent rider in recent years.
Townend was aboard the well-backed Adamant Chosen in the Goffs Land Rover Bumper at Punchestown on Tuesday. Backed from 10-1 into 5-1, the winner beat a high-class field to make a most impressive winning debut.
Townend, who has two winners left with her 7lbs claim, had previously won Galway's 2019 Amateur Handicap and a Grade 2 Bumper at February's Dublin Racing Festival, among plenty of other decent races. Given a great ride from Jody Townend, Adamant Chosen gave the impression that he is a horse worth following.
Trainer Willie Mullins said: "Jody was very good on the horse. He was one of the bargain purchases of the sales (cost €24,000), which just shows you don't have to have huge money to get the winner."
The 22-year-old jockey from Lisgoold near Midelton is the youngest sister of champion jockey Paul Townend and she is riding at the top of her game. Townend had a bad schooling fall at Mullins’ yard last October, she has come back better and stronger.