Interest ignited in unusual places

Perhaps fate decides what interests we end up with in life. That’s not to say that all interests are eternally retained, by any means. However, I firmly believe the cyclical nature of things work out perfectly in this corner when it comes to keep the spirits somewhat afloat. Most of the time anyway!

Nothing beats summer – whatever it may constitute in an Irish context. Some fields are full of livestock, others hum with machinery as crops to feed said animals are processed. Oh, and the GAA Championships keep the mind enthralled – despite an ever-growing sense of inevitability regarding the eventualities thereof.

But then, as soon as the lights go out on Jones’s Road, the wheel turns again. From a certain perspective, that’s no bad thing – cattle being housed means easier viewing. That is to digress, though. The most pleasurable change on sporting fronts is undoubtedly the resumption of the box seat position by National Hunt racing from its counterpart.

Yet, there’s a bit of a contradiction there too because the all weather fixtures in Dundalk have their attractiveness too. Admittedly, the lure had waned considerably until recently. Then again, a local connection to anything is always guaranteed to see interest ignited in unusual places.

Under the Co Louth lights lately, the draw has been two-fold. Firstly as Drumree trainer Keith Clarke has enjoyed considerable success at the border venue in recent times courtesy of horses such as Poitin and Solar Benny while the former jockey is also responsible for talented hurdlers Barrack Street and New World.

However, it must be admitted that the main cause of renewed intrigue in the Friday – and often Wednesday – night lights has been the return to action thence of jockey Padraig Beggy. The Dunboyne man, for whom the Ulster Derby provided a particular day of note some years ago, had in more recent times garnered winners in England and India and Australia before returning home.

Like many more Irish riders, he began his career under the stewardship of the great Kevin Prendergast and it’s surely an endorsement of the esteem in which his abilities are held that he has been based in no less than Ballydoyle since his return to action on home soil.

His first success since his return, though, came courtesy of Chatterton trained by Paul Flynn – who has provided Beggy with some notable successes in the past (particularly with the talented Drunken Sailor) as well as training winners for a few Dunboyne owners. His services have also been engaged by local handlers Clarke and Dermot McLoughlin while on the night of his return success he came within a short head of attaining a first victory for his current employers aboard Sea Of Blue. That duck will assuredly be dismantled shortly.

There was even further cause for local celebration at the floodlit meeting a couple of days later as Tony Martin’s Moonmeister scored an eighth career success (a first for his current handler) in the colours of John and Paula Davison of Killarkin Stud.

While it’s probably the case that everyone takes pride in their work, I’ve met few people with greater love for what they do than Billy Rochford. Billy’s been ‘head man’ in Killarkin for decades and seeing his joy when one of their inmates does well would lift the most beleaguered of spirits. Celebrating a win in his company is quite the experience too!

Now, as it happens, Keith Clarke also provides an overlap to another local success story. Ally Murphy – also a talented wedding photographer – is a vital part of the Clarke operation. Recently, however, she was very much in the picture in her own right as she trained An Tiora Dall – owned by her partner and my good friend Michael Reilly – to what was a maiden success for horse and handler.

Murphy’s landmark winner was partnered by Aileen O’Sullivan – who has ridden for Jim Dreaper – and later on the same card in Rockfield, Co Roscommon Reilly’s black and amber silks got another creditable showing when Giveabobback finished third under Neil Gault.

The Point-to-Point scene is one which has always interested me though taking in such a fixture was always considered and impossibility due to circumstance. Which is a great pity as plenty of people known to me have a great love for the ‘Point’ circuit and have enjoyed success there.

Moreover, the importance of this area of racing to the entire bloodstock sector cannot be overstated. Both in terms of pointers sold overseas and those who triumph between the flags before commencing careers under rules here at home. As with anything, there are dominant figures in the sector. From well known trainers like Gordon Elliott, Jim Dreaper and Colin Bowe, to what might be best described as specialists in the field such as Pat Doyle, Andy Slattery, Colin McKeever, the Costello family and Tom Malone.

And while it generally works out that the stock from the dominant outlets often hold sway and thus end up in the more vaunted establishments to continue their careers, seeing someone like Ally Murphy among the winners proves that it doesn’t have to be an elitist closed shop. Hope and expectation would be that there may be further local success within the bigger picture in the future!


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