THE BRIGHTWELL sale at Cheltenham last week saw some extraordinary prices being paid for national hunt race horses.
A number of local yards, while not being the headline act, did very well, with Myles Sunderland's Kilcorral House Stables making the third-biggest price of the day when 'Mr Watson', a five-year-old by 'Gold Well', was sold for £215k.
Donnchadh Doyle's 'A Trip To Milan', a four-year-old gelding by 'Milan', was sold for £190k. Brian Jordan's 'Outlawed Tunes', a five-year-old by 'Lord Americo', made £140k, while Colin Bowe's 'Oscar' fouryear-old 'Clondaw Kaempfer' made £130k in the ring.
Wexford yards had four of the top ten lots offered at the sale and these prices in sterling represent the best return for a good many years. Hopefully we are now turning the corner.
Aidan and Joseph O'brien have opened up the flat season with a number of nice winners including some stakes performers. The yard is in good form and we should expect more wins during the season from recent winners 'Furner's Green', 'Home Coming Queen', 'Forester', 'Ernest Hemmingway', 'Betterbetterbetter' and 'Ahimsa'.
It's also well worth taking note of Jim Bolger's 'Light Heavy', with the three-year-old son of 'Teofilo' winning the Group 3 Ballysax Stakes under Kevin Manning.
Over the jumps, Paul Nolan and Martin Doran scored with 'Rising Time' at Tramore where Bernadette Murphy also recorded a win with 'Coolharbour Breeze'.
Completing our round-up, John Cullen joined forces with David Watchman to score on 'Pageboy' at Tipperary.
Jamie Codd took the lead in the Eastern region championship following a scintillating four-timer at Stradbally on April 15. With the ground riding good to firm, Codd reeled off his four winners to also put himself back in the race as a contender for the national jockeys' championship, particularly if he stays in this form.
While a number of the bigger yards chose not to run their horses at Stradbally because of the ground, many horses did appreciate the lively going. Codd kicked off his four-timer on 'Nedzer's Return' in the Open Lightweight, with the ten-year-old 'Bob's Return' gelding staying on well.
Codd then made most of the running on 'Everylasting' in the next contest and always seemed to be in control. Codd's victory here on the five-year-old son of 'Millenary' saw him joining forces with Co. Kilkenny-based David O'brien.
Castlebridge trainer Myles Sunderland was next on the list when the winners of one contest went to ' Bunnenaugh', an 'Anshan' seven-year-old who always raced prominently and ran on well.
Codd's four-timer was achieved in the Mares' Maiden when 'Red Mag', a six-yearold by 'Classic Cliche', got to the front two fences out to beat 'Coolgarrow Lady' under J.J. Slevin.
The doyen of Wexford racing and the point-to-point sector in Ireland, Padge Berry, was on hand to welcome home 'The Booshy Man' under Tom Bennett. This horse was always prominent and easily accounted for 'Ravens Brook' under Barry O'neill and ' Academy General' under Jamie Codd.
Berry indicated afterwards that plans for the six-year-old son of 'Luso' would be decided at a later stage. It was great to see Berry back at the winner's enclosure after many of us thought that we would not see him among the training ranks again.
The Punchestown festival gets under way today (Tuesday) with the two-mile Boyle Sports Champion Steeplechase. With only ten entries, indications are that 'Big Zeb' will renew battle with 'Sizing Europe'.
Colin Murphy will be hoping that this will be the first of a grade one treble as 'Voler La Vedette' goes into action on Thursday in the Stairs World Series Hurdle, while Murphy also saddles 'Quito De La Roque' in the Punchestown Gold Cup on Wednesday. He must be hopeful of a big pay day.
The five-day festival is the season finale and Murphy, Paul Nolan et al will be under a fair amount of pressure as they compete against the best in Ireland and a good sprinkling of British runners. Racing: April 24, Punchestown (e); April 25, Punchestown (e); April 26, Punchestown (e); April 27, Punchestown (e); April 28, Punchestown; April 29, Navan; May 1, Ballinrobe (e); May 2, Dundalk (e); May 3, Tipperary (e); May 4, Dundalk (e), Kilbeggan; May 5, Limerick; May 6, Gowran Park, Sligo. Point-to-point: April 28, Mid Antrim (H); April 29, Ballymacad (F), Stonehall (H), United Hunt (F); May 5, Newry (H), Tipperary (F); May 6, East Galway (F), Muskerry (F).