Rising star Slevin catches the eye with impressive Ballinrobe double
The impressive recent run of J.J. Slevin, a rising young jump riding star from Kiltrea, Caim, continued last week and a sparkling double at Ballinrobe on Tuesday evening put him over the 50-winner mark and saw his claim cut from five pounds to three. He had his third winner of the week at Wexford on Friday night.
In the Ballinrobe opener he scored on Spin a Yarn ((7/4f) for his first cousin, Joseph O'Brien, holding off Davy Russell on Gordon Elliott's Skeaping in a driving finish despite some 'iffy' hurdling early on. He had an easier success in the third on Hello Sweetie (5/2f) for trainer P. Collins from Bessbrook, Co.Down.
Seán Flanagan was out for a week nursing a rib injury which has meant a few nice Noel Meade rides for Jonathan Moore (Adamstown).
He was on a well-fancied pair on Tuesday night's card but had to be content with second in both races.
Major Destination (3/1) was well beaten by the fancied Westland Row (5/2; Davy Russell for Elliott), but the defeat of Darkest Flyer (4/7) by 20/1 shot, Beneficial, was a bit of a shocker.
Moore seemed to be travelling well on a horse he had won on at Limerick four days earlier until the horse jinked and became unbalanced at the last bend; Mark Bolger took the chance to head for home and grabbed a winning lead.
I was at Ballinrobe both evenings and I have to say it was a great experience. It is a beautiful track, with the western stone walls very much in evidence, and the facilities are very impressive. They had huge crowds both days and fully-sponsored cards. It must be the best supported track in the country and it won the title 'Irish racecourse of the year' in 2012.
I moved on to Limerick on Thursday, another fine custom-built venue, but the crowds were sparse on a blustery, damp evening.
Seán Flanagan (Palace East) had his comeback ride in the Mares' Beginners' Chase after an injury break, and fellow Wexfordman, trainer Colin Bowe from Kiltealy, provided him with an impressive 'armchair' winner in Sharlanda (2/1).
He won by an eased down 16 lengths from Davy Russell on Jessica Harrington's Flaviana (15/8f). Bowe was delighted: 'She was deadly there. We didn't know if she'd handle the (unexpected) soft ground as we only have her a year…She is in-foal to Ol' Man River and only has a month left to race so we might be tempted to go for a black-type race now.'
J.J. Slevin had won a hurdle race on the horse at Gowran a month ago. He was on Michievious Max (2/1) for Joseph O'Brien in the maiden hurdle here but had to give best to outsider Absolute Grit (14/1) under Pádraig Beggy.
I mentioned last week about the rare case at Killarney when a qualified riders' race won by Henry De Bromhead's Stars Over The Sea was declared void because of 'unfair starting procedures' when the winner gained a substantial lead with a flying start and never saw another rival.
The local stewards ruled that the official was at fault and not the riders, a very unusual outcome in racing. Acting steward Peter Matthews commented: 'There are rules that starters are supposed to obey as well as the jockeys and that's what we would expect and we didn't think there was a fair start and declared it void'.
Well, the long-standing view that 'the officials are always right even if they get it wrong' was restored at an uncontested appeal on Thursday; the race result was reinstated to the record books and Stars over the Sea was declared the winner.
It seems there is a clause in the rules that the starter's decision is always final. Why am I not surprised?!
On the flat in Ireland, Aidan O'Brien dominated Leopardstown on Thursday night, winning all four of the main races, with Ryan Moore riding Pentagon and Happily to success in the Group 3 contests, Delano Roosevelt won for Wayne Lordan and son Donnacha was on Belgravia. To complete the Wexford dominance, Jim Bolger took second in two of those races and third in another.
Aidan was at it again on Saturday at a low-key Curragh card, the last meeting before Galway, combining with Donnacha to win the first three races with Ballet Shoes (7/4), Fleet Review (4/5) and Pavlenko (11/4).
Bolger denied them a four-timer in the last when his Ringside Support (well-backed 5/2), beat World Stage (11/10) by a head under Kevin Manning.
All attention will focus on the seven-day Galway Festival this week, while the big flat guns will be trained on glorious Goodwood in England.