YOUNG jockey Michael O'Connor could be set for a big summer as the Conna native recorded a sixth winner over jumps at Downpatrick last week.
Based with one of Ireland's leading trainers, Henry De Bromhead, O'Connor is a jockey on the up, and he claims a valuable seven pounds. On Friday, he scored aboard Centurion Steel, his first winner for his boss, Henry De Bromhead.
Given a superb ride, O'Connor guided the winner to a length and three-quarters success, in the Cosy Roof Handicap Hurdle, at odds of 4-1.
Speaking on that brilliant success, O'Connor said: "The summer ground is probably starting to help him a small bit. He battled away the whole way to the line and I'm very happy with him.
"The horse in Tramore that day (Ballyadam Destiny) probably just got a run on him.
Downpatrick is becoming a lucky hunting ground for O'Connor, that's his third success at the Northern venue, after wins aboard Crimson Chief and My Manekineko.
Centurion Steel rounded off a week to remember for the Cork jockey, after success earlier in the week, at Ballinrobe, with Listenheretomejack.
Back to that Ballinrobe victory, trained by Eoin Doyle, O'Connor got the best out of his 11-2 winner in the closing stages, at the line, the winner was a length clear of Brides Hill, to win the Adare Manor Opportunity Handicap Hurdle. Another brilliant display from the up-and-coming jockey.
O'Connor is patiently building his career, building his contacts, working hard, riding well. More success looks certain in the coming months.
For Henry De Bromhead to trust the young Conna jockey shows you how well he is thought of in racing circles and there's no doubt he'll have plenty of opportunities to progress this season. He's riding for a brilliant boss in De Bromhead, who has heaps of ammo to go to war with once again. His 7lbs claim won't last forever, but this talented young rider is certainly worth following going forward.
Eleven-time Grade One winner Faugheen, one of the most popular jumpers in training in recent years, has been retired. Owners Rich and Susannah Ricci have called time on the horse's career along with two other outstanding performers to have carried their colours Douvan and Benie Des Dieux.
Despite injury repeatedly interrupting his career, Faugheen maintained his talent and enthusiasm, including when going down with all guns blazing in a blanket finish on his final start behind Samcro and Melon at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival as a 12-year-old. He bagged two victories at that meeting and his tally would surely have been more had the path proved a little less bumpy in the final years of his career in the care of trainer Willie Mullins.
Armory proved a class above his rivals as he made a successful start to his campaign in the Melodi Media Huxley Stakes at Chester, with a step back up to the highest level next on the agenda.
The Galileo colt brought some top-class form to the table from last season, having finished fourth in the Irish 2,000 Guineas and the Tattersalls Gold Cup, third in the Irish Champion Stakes and second to former stablemate Sir Dragonet in the Cox Plate in Australia. He was the 6-5 favourite to provide trainer Aidan O’Brien with a third victory in this Group Two contest – and after settling at the rear of the four-strong field for much of the race, quickly found top gear under Ryan Moore in the straight to leave his rivals toiling.
Sangarius filled the runner-up spot, beaten three lengths by the impressive winner. Emma Lavelle is looking ahead to a bright future after appointing Tom Bellamy as her stable jockey.
The Marlborough trainer felt the time was right to have a retained rider for the first time in several years.
Having Bellamy on her side means Lavelle will have the consistency she requires after the jockey made the right impression when being successful on a spare ride.
“It’s something we’re excited about,” she said.
“It was just one of those things, he picked up a spare ride for us at Huntingdon and won on it and then won on it again. His style of riding suits us. He is definitely going in the right direction. He is great to work with and everyone is really pleased about it going forward."