Three jockeys in top form at home
There was a good turn-out for Wexford's final Friday night meeting of the season at sunny Bettyville, with the Monart Most Stylish Lady competition adding a splash of colour and glamour to the proceedings.
There were no Wexford-trained winners, but three local jockeys made it to the winners' enclosure: J.J. Slevin (Caim), Seán O'Keeffe (Taghmon), and Barry O'Neill (Kiltealy).
Extensive watering in the preceding week produced excellent racing conditions, and all went off well. Cork connections dominated the previous meeting, but this time four of the seven winners were trained in Waterford.
J.J. Slevin is not long back after a lengthy injury break, but he won the opening Liam Leacy Plumbing and Heating Maiden Hurdle in good style in the colours made famous by the legendary mare, Dawn Run, and quite a few of the Hill family were present to greet their winner.
Boro Tari (9/4jf), trained by Henry de Bromhead, took it up quite far out after the fourth last and kept on very well right to the line to win by three lengths from Get A Price (8/1) under Philip Enright, and Cotton End (9/4jf) was another five lengths back in third for Danny and Mag Mullins.
It was quite a wait before two Wexford-ridden winners struck in the final two races, and both had 'Melody' in the title.
Seán O'Keeffe, the young apprentice from Taghmon, landed a major gamble at the previous meeting on Arch Melody, and they did it again in the Flood Ironworks Ltd. handicap chase, this time being backed in from 9/2 to 7/2f.
Trained in Tallow, Co. Waterford, by John Morrison, he took it up entering the straight and romped clear to win by seven lengths, despite a dodgy jump at the last, from Hard Bought (8/1) under Philip Enright, and the well-backed Whoyakodding (6/1) under Darragh O'Keeffe.
In the concluding Irish Stallion Farms EBF bumper, point-to-point champion rider, Barry O'Neill, gave a master class in front running to romp home by eight lengths on Love the Melody (8/1), trained by Pat Flynn in Carrick-on-Suir. O'Neill stole a big lead early on and had plenty in reserve when they tried to reel him in towards the end.
M.J. O'Hare, on favourite Blue Heather (11/8), and Jamie Codd, on Conquering Tara (6/4), did come out of the pack in the last three furlongs and did mount a challenge but could never get on terms, taking second and third.
Paul Nolan had a few fancied runners but, unusually for him, he left empty-handed. Most disappointing was Shawshank, heavily backed 5/4 favourite for the Opel 192 Handicap Chase, but he was pulled up with half a mile to go and jockey Bryan Cooper reported that the horse had gone lame.
There was drama at the second-last fence when Smithscorner (4/1), a winner at the previous meeting, was making a strong challenge again when he crashed out, and jockey Cillian Orr did well to get to his feet.
The winner was Successor (6/1), ridden by Darragh O'Keeffe for Joseph O'Brien and J.P. McManus, a length in front of My Manekineko (18/1) under Ricky Doyle, with Seán Flanagan well back in third on Runyon Rattler (14/1).
Nolan had two fancied runners in the Ferrybank Opel Beginners' Chase, and while Roney (10/3) under Bryan Cooper and Shetland Bus (5/1) under Seán O'Keeffe ran well, they came in third and fourth.
Winner by a neck was Licklighter (3/1f) under Paul Cawley for Denis Gerard Hogan (Tipperary), with Woodbrook Boy (25/1) second for Rachael Blackmore and 'Shark' Hanlon.
Cawley and Hogan had earlier been involved in a dramatic deadheat on Mister Butler (16/1) in the Flood Ironworks Handicap Hurdle, sharing the honours with Black Spot On (12/1) under Darragh O'Keeffe for Ronan McNally.
Third here was another fancied Nolan runner, Lady of the Sea (7/2f), under Seán O'Keeffe for Jim Mernagh.
The fourth Waterford-trained winner was in the Monart Destination Spa Handicap Hurdle where Tintown Robin (6/1) took it for Philip Enright and Vincent Halley from Kill, with another Waterford combination in second, Ourauldman (7/4f) under Rachael Blackmore for de Bromhead.
It was an enjoyable night's racing, and they will do it all over again on Saturday afternoon, September 7.
The fifth Monart Destination Spa Most Stylish Lady competition drew a large entry, and winner of a luxury stay and treatments at Monart was Anne Cusack from Waterford, who was runner-up last year. Second was Majella Wall from Enniscorthy, and third went to Veronica Murphy, Ballyhack.
Celebrity judge was Marietta Doran, assisted by Mark Browne, General Manager at Monart, and Keith Jordan from Westgate Design, Wexford. They said they were very impressed with the overall standard.