Local connections fared well in Galway and Roscommon

The Ballybrit festival came to a close on Sunday. All the leading trainers had runners and winners throughout the week but what a week for young Craughwell-based trainer Paul Gilligan, who had 3 wins and 3 seconds with 4 horses.    Recent Sligo winner Tai Lass, owned by a couple of lads from Kinnegad, finished 2 nd on Tuesday to Rainbow Dash beaten ½ a length.     Nintytwo Team, owned by the Hurl’n’Ball Syndicate, finished 2 nd only 3l behind Leg Spinner on Wednesday    On Thursday Paul again was in the enclosure when Jadanli, running for his father Eamon Gilligan, finished 1¼ lengths 2 nd to Field Commander. There were no runners from the yard on Friday.   Then on Saturday Nintytwo Team turned out again and won beating Streetshavenoname ¾ length in the Freshways Handicap Hurdle, the feature race on the card. This was a fantastic performance by horse and trainer to place him and win 20lbs out of the handicap. As Paul said after the horse didn’t know he was out of the handicap.   All were ridden by regular partner Andrew Lynch who is attached to Michael O’Brien’s yard. Could things get any better?   Yes! On Sunday Tai Lass, appearing for the 2 nd time, went into the winner’s enclosure beating Green Mile by 1½ lengths in a handicap hurdle – this time ridden by Denis O’Regan as Andrew was claimed by Michael O’Brien. Afterwards, when congratulated on national TV on having a great week Paul confidently said that it’s not all over yet.   And in the final race of the festival he was once again in the winner’s enclosure when Life For Rent won his 3 rd bumper out of 4 runs, ridden as usual by Mikie O’Connor. This horse also runs in the colours of the Hurl’n’Ball Syndicate.   The Master of Ballybrit, Dermot Weld, may have had 6 winners but Paul Gilligan’s feat of 3 winners and 3 seconds with 4 horses at the festival from only 8 horses in training takes some beating.    On Saturday evening Touchthewood, unlucky in running on Monday, turned out again to land the bumper under a great ride from Chris Cully for Mullingar-based trainer Dot Love and her assistant Ciaran Murphy.   And on Sunday a Roscommon Syndicate had a winner when Ardalan, trained in Wexford by Paul Nolan, won in the colours of the Clemackeen Syndicate. The winner was led in by Paraic Keenan who has a butcher shop in Lanesboro Street in Roscommon. Ridden by Paddy Flood he beat Zaffran Star by ½ a length.    So after a relatively quiet start for local connections what an end to the festival on Saturday and Sunday.    And on to Roscommon and another local winner when Michael Hussey brought Florrie Mills’s Kingsdale Orion to lead a furlong down in the O’Gara Royal Hotel Race drawing clear to win by three-lengths from Mick Halford’s favourite Nastrelli with Kevin Prendergast’s Dawala 3rd. The winner is trained in Ardmullan, Kiltoom outside Athlone and was winning for 2 nd time in 3 runs having beaten Ray McGlinchey’s Tote Galway Mile EBF Handicap winner Incline at the Curragh.   The Niall Moran trained Nora Chrissie at Slieve Bawn Stables, Strokestown finished 3 rd in the ERA Oates Auctioneers Handicap to Pat Martin’s Gilberto and Tracey Collins’s Persian Knight.  Nora Chrissie, who had stepped to finish 4 th a Listed race here last time, was more at home at this level and with better ground will soon be seen at her best. Strike One, running in the famous colours of Dr. Vincent O’Brien, won the Ulster Bank Maiden and is trained by his son Charles.   In the second division of the 3-Y-O Hurdle the Joe Crowley-trained Paco Jack, ridden by Ruby Walsh went on before the second last for an easy 17-length victory. Paco Jack is owned by Ballinameen, Co. Roscommon native Christy Beirne. Could we have seen in this Soviet Star gelding next year’s Cheltenham’s Triumph Hurdle winner in Roscommon?   The two chases on the card were abandoned due to the chase track being waterlogged.   And finally: Saturday night sees the end of a fortnight’s racing in the west and midlands at Kilbeggan where there are 7 races in an all NH card as usual, 3 hurdles, 3 chases and a bumper starting at 5.30.    The feature event is the Kieran Kelly Memorial Handicap Chase named after the young jockey who unfortunately lost his life in a fall on the track just over 4 years ago. Top weight is the Midlands National winner, Front Row, who went on to win at Galway looking for a hat trick. Trained by Dessie Hughes, for whom Kieran rode, he should go very near, with the main danger looking to be Mullica Lad.   Friday night sees racing at Wexford and on Sunday at the Curragh and Downpatrick.     Any comments by e-mail to:  horses.forcourses@yahoo.com