Jumps Season - At The Races

Ex-Irish Pointers

    Irish point-to-point experts Richard Pugh & Eoghain Ward pinpoint 12 former Irish pointers with potential who are set to embark on a new career under Rules.
  • Horses to Follow

Continuing the trend of recent years, Irish Point-to-Point graduates continued to set records last season, winning close to 1,400 races in the UK and Ireland, including no less than 67 Graded races, up from 59 a year earlier.

Those successes came on the biggest of stages in the sport at all of the Spring Festivals, with no fewer than one in every four horses who ran at the Cheltenham Festival in March having begun their careers between the flags in Ireland.

Whilst the winners of the Aintree and Irish Nationals, the Irish Champion Hurdle, and 11 other Grade 1s having also all made their first foray into competitive action in a Point-to-Point field across the length and breadth of the island of Ireland.

Following on from last year’s 12 to follow list which produced the likes of Bacardys who finished placed in the Grade 1 Champion Bumper at both the Cheltenham and Punchestown Festivals, Invitation Only, a Punchestown Festival winner, and the unbeaten Lucky Pass, we will once again look to highlight 12 of the most exciting four-year-olds that we witnessed between the flags last season who have not yet made their debuts inside the rails.

Horse profiles

Burren Life

Burren Life cruelly still remains a maiden after one start between the flags, as he was a very unfortunate final fence faller on his debut at Belharbour on the opening weekend of the four-year-old Point to Point campaign back in February.

By a relatively unknown sire of jumps horses, Pelder, whose best performer over obstacles in these isles to date has been Henry de Bromhead’s Grade 2 winner Buckers Bridge whilst he has also produced a Group 1 winner on the flat in Sanex, and Burren Life should certainly fly the flag strongly for his sire on the evidence of what he produced at Belharbour.

Setting a very strong gallop in quite testing ground conditions, he appears to possess a strong cruising speed which enabled him to force a number of his rivals off the bridle with relative ease, before relentlessly powering-on up the home straight.

The well-fancied newcomer Caltex, who has also subsequently joined Gordon Elliott, was his only rival capable of going with him in the home straight, yet he was never able to fully get on-terms, held some 2 lengths in arrears when Burren Life put in a clumsy leap at the last where he came to grief.

None the worse for that spill, he was subsequently purchased by Gordon Elliott for £135,000 at the Cheltenham Sales in January.

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Cesar Collonges (FR)

Cesar Collonges was one of the early four-year-old maiden winners last season, as he stamped his authority on a small but select field at Kirkistown in February, a race which last year produced dual Grade 1 runner-up Petit Mouchoir.

Whilst just four runners may have gone to post, all were well-related individuals who looked well in the preliminaries, with Cesar Collonges himself out of a winning Apple Tree mare who is a half-sister to the 2012 Grand National victor Neptune Collonges.

Dictating the pace in a race which clocked the quickest time of the day, the son of Fragrant Mix really caught the eye in particular with the professionalism of his jumping, which was very slick throughout, before he continued to pick-up in the home straight when challenged by Clitandre to prevail by a cosy three lengths.

The first two horses both look above average with Cesar Collonges joining Evan Williams for £200,000 at the Cheltenham Sales, whilst Clitandre is now in training with Willie Mullins, and both should be capable of winning Bumpers in the near future before going on to bigger things.

Claimantakinforgan (UNR)

The four-year-old maiden which is run over Easter at Loughanmore is rapidly becoming one of the leading races of the season for the quality of horses which it is producing.

The 2015 winner Lucky Pass, whom we highlighted in last season’s 12 to follow list, remained unbeaten by winning a brace of Bumpers for Willie Mullins, whilst the final fence faller Battleford was only beaten by a nose in the Grade 1 Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

Meanwhile Grade 2 winners Shantou Village and Definitly Red are other four-year-old maiden winners at the Antrim venue.

Nicky Henderson purchased the winner of this race in 2014, his currently 160-rated hurdler Different Gravey, and he appears to have a hugely exciting prospect Claimantakinforgan on his hands.

This French-bred is a very sharp type with plenty of gears which enabled him to quicken clear of his rivals from the front off the home bend in a most noteworthy front-running performance, which earned him the prestige of joint-highest rated four-year-old last term.

This year’s renewal appeared to be a hot race with a number of the leading yards represented fancying their runners, whilst the third-placed Lough Derg Spirit has since franked the form by winning at Athlcacca before also joining Henderson’s Lambourn base for £190,000.

Drovers Lane (UNR)

Drovers Lane was very badly hampered on his debut at Inch, and it is to his credit that he was able to battle his way back to finish third.

Unsurprisingly following that unlucky introduction, a clearer passage on his very next start at Necarne in May produced him with the platform to demonstrate what he is capable of.

The three market principals in this contest, who all entered the race with previous placed form to their names, all drew clear of the remainder along the back straight, and it is the fact that the leading fancies all ran their true races, which ensured that the eye-catching turn of foot which Drovers Lane to quicken clear up the stiff uphill finish like a fresh horse, made the performance all the more memorable.

This is a very sharp horse who should be suited by the drop back in trip and he must be strongly fancied for a Bumper in the near future for new trainer Rebecca Curtis.

Espoir De Teillee (FR)

The French-bred Espoir De Teillee was very well thought of ahead of his debut, and consequently was heavily supported in the market at Athlacca in early May.

He certainly lived up to that lofty reputation with a performance which quickly had him at the top of many leading trainer’s shopping lists at the Spring sales.

Picking up the running with four fences to jump, he was smartly able to put distance between himself and his 10 rivals early in the home straight to leave him a comfortable 2 lengths clear at the final fence before he slipped on landing in wet conditions and exited the race.

Secret Investor, who picked-up the race following his departure was purchased by Paul Nicholls for £175,000, whilst Espoir De Teillee himself realized £220,000 and looks a pacey type with the speed to win a Bumper in the near future for new trainer Neil Mulholland.

Video Form
9 Apr 2017:

Fitzhenry

Wexford handler Colin Bowe had a season to savor last term as he saddled no fewer than 17 four-year-old maiden winners, including Timewaitsfornoone, Samcro and Getabird who all subsequently topped the Spring Festival sales in a previously unachieved feat.

All three are surely set to enjoy successful careers under rules for their new connections, however one horse which may have slipped slightly under the radar from Bowe’s Milestone Stables is Fitzhenry.

The good looking son of Flemensfirth scored in impressive fashion on his debut at Monksgrange. Always catching the eye travelling very strongly through the race, he likely eased his way to the front a shade earlier than may have been planned, such was the ease at which he was travelling whilst many of his rivals faltered.

To his credit, once challenged by the runner-up, he gamely picked-up once again and was never in top gear to run out a most convincing winner. There are plenty of Flat lines in his pedigree, and Fitzhenry looks to have a big engine which would see him as a big player in a Bumper.

He has since joined fellow Wexford trainer Paul Nolan who has proven that he is well capable of bringing horses to the highest level with the likes of Noble Prince and Joncol, and this could prove to be a future stable star.

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Minella Till Dawn

Horses graduating from the Point to Point fields carrying the Minella prefix are no new phenomenon with well over 100 horses registered with the name including last season’s Cheltenham Festival victor Minella Rocco.

John Nallen, who gifts his horses their names after his Minella hotel could have introduced yet another future star into the game with Minella Till Dawn who was saddled by leading Wexford handler Denis Murphy to make a winning debut at The Pigeons in early March.

Always catching the eye in running as he travelled effortlessly into the race at the third-last, the son of Shantou produced a very smart turn of foot to quicken alongside the short-priced favourite Eviscerating who was representing the powerful combination of Gordon Elliott and Gigginstown House Stud, with the pair pulling a striking 15 lengths clear of a subsequent maiden winner Lost Frequency by the line.

Both Minella Till Dawn, who is now in training with Gordon Elliott, and Eviscerating should be carefully noted ahead of their Bumper debuts, as they both clearly possess an awful lot of gears and will should have little difficulty with the drop back from three miles.

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Monbeg Worldwide

County Wexford-based handlers have dominated the four-year-old division thus far in 2016 with Donnchadh Doyle saddling no less than 12 winners, of which Monbeg Worldwide was certainly one of the most impressive.

In testing underfoot conditions at Lismore in March, the son of Lucarno set almost all of the pace in a race which clocked the fastest time of the day, some 11 seconds faster than the day’s average which will be of note to fans of the clock, and that searching pace soon saw his rivals one by one drop out of contention, including subsequent winners and placed horses to add substance to the form.

Galloping relentlessly to the line, he appears to possess an abundance of stamina and relentlessly put his rivals to the sword.

Bought privately by Gigginstown House Stud to go in training with Gordon Elliott, Michael O’Leary has enjoyed a successful season with pointing graduates with his Aintree and Irish National winners both having started their careers between the flags.

Monbeg Worldwide fits that bill, as this imposing sort who really caught the eye on his debut is every inch a chasing star of the future.

Unlike a number of the horses who feature alongside him on the list who are sharp types who can easily win Bumpers and drop back notably in trip, he is likely more of a long-term prospect.

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Redhotfillypeppers

Redhotfillypeppers is the sole mare to be included in this year’s 12 to follow, however her inclusion is most deserving as she was by far the standout four-year-old mare between the flags last season owing to her spectacular debut success at Necarne in May.

This race was stacked with form, and those mares with previous placed form to their names appeared to run right up to their marks, ensuring the fact that they fell some way short of her is all the more special.

A big-striding daughter of Robin Des Champs with ample scope over her obstacles, she had all her rivals out of their comfort zones some way out, and barely came off the bridle to prevail by 10 lengths.

Willie Mullins and Harold Kirk were forced to £200,000 in order to secure her at the Cheltenham Sale later that month, setting a record for the highest price ever paid at public auction for a four-year-old mare from the pointing field.

Her high cruising speed is a most notable asset, but there appears to be so much more untapped potential and she now heads to the track with a sizeable reputation to uphold.

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Samcro

Samcro was the talking horse for much of the season a long time before he even took his first steps into the competitive arena such was the lofty reputation which he had developed since joining Colin Bowe’s Milestone Stable as an expensive store purchase.

Unsurprisingly, when he did make his much anticipated debut at Monksgrange in April, he was heavily backed and sent off as a short-priced odds-on favourite in very testing conditions, with the meeting having to survive an inspection on the morning of the fixture, such was the deluge of rain in the hours and days prior to the fixture.

That certainly did not appear to hinder his cause as he piled on the pressure entering the home straight, without having to come off the bridle.

A sloppy leap at the final fence ensured he was forced to work harder for success than had previously appeared likely, but to his credit he did pick-up when challenged in those very tough conditions which is admirable, and the front pair pulled 20 lengths clear of the remainder.

Gold Cup-winning trainer Gordon Elliott saddled the runner-up Elegant Escape and it is most noteworthy given the strong hold that he would have on the form that he went to £335,000 to secure the chestnut gelding who will now carry the Gigginstown colours.

Elliott clearly has great faith in the form, and there is plenty to be excited about with him when he makes his rules debut.

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Stowaway Forever

Champagne Fever, a previous Cheltenham Festival winner and multiple Graded victor, is one of the leading graduates of Irish Point-to-Points in recent years, and his full-brother Stowaway Forever appears to also have inherited some of the family’s class, as he made a winning debut at Loughbrickland in very impressive fashion.

An expensive purchase as a foal given that pedigree with his handler Philip Dempsey, the producer of leading jumps mare Jacksonslady, forking out €70,000 to secure the son of Stowaway, and the grey gelding fulfilled the promise in very testing conditions at Loughbrickland.

Sweeping his way to the front along the back straight, he quickly had a previously bunched field well strung out in a matter of strides on the uphill climb into the home straight, with Wonderoftheworld his only rivals capable of quickening with him, and even he was comfortably held by 3 lengths at the line.

With a high-class page behind which will aid him to train on, he looks a sharp type who possess a notable turn of foot and he could have a big future ahead of him in the care of Philip Dempsey.

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Timewaitsfornoone (UNR)

Unusually for a four-year-old Point to Pointer at the start of the spring season, Timewaitsfornoone ran twice within the space of 7 days.

Colin Bowe’s charge made his debut in a three-runner contest at Punchestown which proved to be a very tactical affair run at a sedate pace over 2m4f. The son of Oscar ultimately proved no match for the Gigginstown House Stud-owned Hardline, a very sharp type who was ideally suited by the sprint finish which developed.

In a bold move, Bowe turned him out the following week, however this time he was stepped-up in trip to 3 miles at Tinahely. Whilst this was also a small field contest containing another well-bred Gigginstown runner, it provided a more suitable test for him, as he gamely out-battled the odds-on favourite in gutsy fashion to score by a length in testing conditions.

Barry Connell paid £225,000 to acquire him at the Cheltenham Festival sale and he has gone in training with Alan Fleming. With Elliott having saddled the runner-up at Tinahely, it is worth noting that he was also the under-bidder to Connell at Cheltenham and clearly respects the form.

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