THE rescheduled Aghabullogue point-to-point meeting took place on Saturday and, on an afternoon that saw the fixture’s former long-standing chairman Jack Murphy who died the previous week remembered, the Sam Curling-trained mare La Feline lit it up for many by coming home as she pleased in the open.
The seven-year-old La Feline (7/4), who finished second on her three previous starts in the autumn, was helped up well off the pace by Derek O’Connor as Lite Duties took the seven runners along. The eventual winner, who posted her solitary track success in a two-mile five-furlong Limerick maiden in January 2020, crept ever closer from the third last of the 16 obstacles and she eased her way to the front before the last to beat the admirably-consistent Cloudy Tuesday by five lengths.
"She’s a mare that’s now learning to settle better and she loves this soft ground," said Curling of La Feline, his initial winner for Corkonian owner John O’Leary. "She will now stay pointing for the season."
Adam Feeney (22), who originally hails from Ballyduff Upper, partnered a third career winner aboard Neill Hurley’s ex-track performer Bankoncarlo (10/1) in the six-year-old and upwards mares’ maiden. Bankoncarlo, who finished fourth in a Clonmel maiden hurdle last March, had just made her way to the front when erring at the last.
Desert Heather was soon back disputing the lead, but Bankoncarlo was the stronger in the closing stages and she re-assumed command some 50 yards out to score by a length.
"She ran well over hurdles last year and she will now go for a mares’ winners race," reported Cullen, Mallow-based handler Hurley of his father Tony’s Bankoncarlo.
James Hannon is experiencing a fine season and the Tallow amateur combined with long-standing ally Joe Ryan to capture the winners of two with Just A Dime (3/1), who finished second to Brandy Love in a Cragmore maiden on debut in February 2020.
The physically-imposing Just A Dime, having won his maiden at the Lisgoold meeting in Ballindenisk almost two weeks earlier, didn’t exactly aid his cause by blundering three out. Just A Dime however still picked up the running before the last and he ultimately accounted for the maiden De Nordener by two and a half lengths.
"It’s good that he’s coming back to what we thought he was as a four-year-old," commented Clare-based operator Ryan of his son Josh’s Just A Dime. "He will probably now be sold."
Shanballymore amateur Chris O’Donovan kept his supporters happy by returning to the coveted number one slot aboard the Benny Crowley-trained debutant Qarbatsi (5/1) in the closing six-year-old and upwards geldings’ maiden, the race that attracted the biggest field of the afternoon in 14 runners.
Qarbatsi disputed the running virtually throughout and he stayed on powerfully in the closing stages to account for the long-absent Good Bye Sam, a rare points runner for Willie Mullins, by two lengths.
Crowley, who has just two pointers in harness at his Kilmeaden base, said: ”I bred this horse with my brother Owen and his dam [Robin Victoria] won a maiden point at Ballindenisk for us. If he’s not sold, he will run in a winners race."
It certainly was a red-letter afternoon for 27-year-old Conor O’Keeffe, elder brother of jumps jockey Sean, from Taghmon in Co Wexford as he was credited with both his initial success as both a rider and handler courtesy of Meetuatnine (5/1) in the five and six-year-old mares’ maiden. Last month’s Boulta third Meetuatnine, who was always prominent on the outer, took command some 75 yards out to beat Shamror Lass by a length.
The reigning champion rider Barry O’Neill teamed up with Colin Bowe to win the five-year-old geldings’ maiden aboard El Rojo Grande (9/2 – 7/2), who likewise came third at Boulta last month. The giant-sized El Rojo Grande benefited from front-running tactics by making all the running to see off newcomer Ajp Kingdom by five lengths.