HIGH FIVE for champions Barry and Colin

By Dan Walsh at Monksgrange

National champions Barry O’Neill and Colin Bowe have hit the ground running sharing five winners on the first two days of the 2021-’22 point-to-point season, three of them today at their local Bree Hunt fixture at Monksgrange, Rathnure, where the rains fell and changed the going.

Four runners stood their ground for the maiden race for four-year-old mares and victory went to the odds-on favourite Music Of Tara by three lengths to get the O’Neill-Bowe partnership into victory mode. “She’s a smart filly. Her future will be on the track,” said the winning trainer.

Six competitors faced the starter half an hour later for the maiden race for five-year-old geldings and the punters followed O’Neill and Bowe and backed Music Drive into favouritism. Music Drive did it well, two and a half lengths to spare on the finish line, and he is now for sale.

The rain arrives as the riders get last instructions for the four year old maiden mares race at Monksgrange this afternoon.

The O’Neill-Bowe hat trick came in the final race of the day – the maiden race for 6 years-old-and plus – with Getaway Lodge by three lengths in the eight-runner. Like Music Drive earlier, Getaway Lodge was in the Milestone Bloodstock Ltd colours.

The most competitive race of the day was the 10-runner maiden race for five-year-old and upward mares where Bonnie Debut scored by eight lengths to give Tomhaggard rider Tiernan Power Roche his 24th career winner. Owned by David O’Byrne from Carlow, Bonnie Debut was the sixth winner as a handler for Mark Scallan, Cleariestown, who has retired from the saddle with 57 career wins and has 15 horses in training for the new season.

Jack Hendrick from Mayglass was in winning form when bringing home Diese Des Bieffes by three lengths in the Open Lightweight Race. His previous races were in England at Uttoxeter and Cheltenham (twice) for champion trainer Paul Nicholls and changed hands at the Doncaster Sales, the eight-year-old grey gelding was running in the colours of Monbeg Farm Racing Partnership and the 31st career winner for the Ballindaggin handler Cormac Doyle.

The only prize that left the county was the success of Coastguard Station from the Tipperary stables of Sam Curling at Cashel and the winning rider was Pa King. That was in the eight-runner maiden race for five-year-old geldings.

It was a very successful day. Everything went off without a hitch, the ground was good, but deteriorated as the rain began to fall heavily, there was a fine attendance – many family groups – and the punters gave a welcome to the return of the bookmakers. It was the first time in 18 months that the crowds were allowed in due to Covid-19 and some pandemic guidelines still apply, such as the mandatory wearing of masks in the parade ring. 

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