Year to remember for Taghmon jockey McDonald
Pat McDonald from Taghmon was beaten on the all-weather at Wolverhampton on Wednesday on a disappointing hot-shot, Rizzle Dizzle (4/7), but got ample compensation with a later double for trainer S.C. Williams on Stellar Surprise (5/2f) and Maratha (9/4f).
McDonald has had a brilliant year with 128 winners, nearly 50 better than his previous best last year, and had total earnings of more than £1,850,000.
He had his first-ever Group 1 success on the Karl Burke-trained Laurens in the Bet365 Fillies Mile in October, beating Aidan O'Brien's September by a nose at Newmarket to pick up a cool £322,000.
McDonald finished seventh in the annual British jockeys' table, just behind Ryan Moore, and the future looks rosy for the Taghmon man after serving quite a long apprenticeship on the northern tracks.
At the big meeting at Kempton on St. Stephen's Day, Tom O'Brien was second on Elegant Escape (11/2) in the £75,000 Grade 1 Kauto Star novices chase, just a length and a half behind Byrony Frost on Black Corton (4/1) for Paul Nicholls, while Daryl Jacob had a disappointing run on Bristol De Mai (3/1) in the King George V1 Chase won by Might Bite (6/4f).
Jacob ended the year on a winning note with victory on Samson's Reach (8/1) at Warwick on Sunday for Richard Price. He is in the top 15 on the jockeys' table with 37 winners since the season began at the start of May.
His commitment to retaining owner Simon Munir has reduced his number of rides overall but improved the quality, and he has some very good horses to go to war with in the big races to come.
Meanwhile, the point-to-point season resumed on Sunday at a meeting in Templenacarriga, Co. Cork, and it was business as usual for the leading Wexford yards, taking two of the three valuable four-year-old races on offer.
Reigning champion trainer and rider, Colin Bowe and Barry O'Neill, continued where they left off with success in the opening four-year-old mares' maiden with Lorvon Pearl (Gold Well-Don't Tell Betty) for the Milestone Racing Partnership, getting up to win snugly by three and a half lengths.
The four-year-old geldings' maiden was divided and the second race was won in very impressive style by Dickie Diver (Gold Well-Merry Excuse) by a massive 20 lengths for trainer Michael Goff (Clondaw, Ferns), who owns it with Dick Frisby, under stable jockey Shane Fitzgerald.
This one will surely soon be a target for the big hitters in the sales ring.
Goff nearly made it a double but Clondaw Fixer had to accept second under Fitzgerald in the five-year-old geldings' maiden, but it was quite a promising debut behind Cepala Delafayette for Terence O'Brien.
Another very praiseworthy second was Rue Hill for Denis Hickey of Foulksmills, ridden by young Seán O'Keeffe from Taghmon, in the Open race, following up on a recent win at Borris.
He was only beaten a neck by former top track performer and Thyestes Chase winner My Murphy, ridden by Richie Harding for Willie Burke.
Good luck to everybody in the year ahead which is set to be very exciting.
O'Neill goes into the second half leading the riders' championship on 19, with Jamie Codd on 14 and Rob James fourth on eight.
Colin Bowe is leading trainer on nine, with Denis Murphy second on six.
There is just one meeting again next weekend, at Aghabullogue in Cork.
The first local meeting to mark in the diary is the Wexford Hunt fixture at Ballinaboola on February 4.