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The Anglo-Irish Challenge at Kingston Blount
Friday 26th May 2017
by Russell Smith

IRELAND were celebrating after finally breaking their duck in the Bicester Office Park Anglo-Irish Challenge with an emphatic victory over Great Britain at Kingston Blount in Oxfordshire.

Such was the dominance of the visiting riders that they sealed a first win in the annual jockeys' competition after just three of the four races - reeling off a quickfire treble.

And for good measure they went on to land the fourth race to complete a clean sweep and a resounding 81-43 triumph on points to end Britain's four-year winning streak.
Reigning Irish men's champion Jamie Codd, who triumphed on Ka Maresco, said, "It is brilliant. It is the fifth year and the first year we have won it. We have a bit of catching up to do. They have been bullying us for the last couple of years. It is a great event. You can see that with the crowd here."

And five-times Irish ladies' champion Liz Lalor, who struck on Harris Garden, added, "They beat us last year and at Chaddesley Corbett and in the years before that, so it is about time we had payback. It is a great clean sweep for the Irish."

Britain's men's champion Will Biddick conceded, "It is good for the Irish. We will be looking to go to Ireland next time to bring back the crown."

With a good-sized crowd turning up and the teams of four men from the two countries allotted horses in an open draw, it was Irish legend Derek O'Connor who set the event alight with a brilliant ride on 20-1 outsider Hunters Lodge to take the Goffs Anglo-Irish Club Members Conditions Race.

The 11-times Irish champion produced Hunters Lodge, trained by Alan Hill at nearby Aston Rowant, to lead at the last, before forging clear to score by a length and three-quarters from Britain's John Dawson on Quick Oats, with GB's Evan David on Good Egg six lengths back in third.

With points awarded for the first four positions, it saw Ireland edge ahead 15-13.

O'Connor said, "It is nice for the Hill family to have a winner at their own course. He is an 11-year-old and he minds himself a little bit. Today he had a good day and I got the best out of him."

Hill commented, "Derek has given Hunters Lodge a great ride. Having Derek on with a change of hands has fallen in his favour. We have retired him tonight. My daughter (Gaby) is going to go hunting and eventing on him."

With Bryony Frost a late absentee from the British team and just six runners declared for the Bicester Office Park Anglo-Irish Ladies' Open, Lalor stepped down for the Irish.

And it was her compatriot, Maxine O'Sullivan, who swept clear five from home on Cut The Corner to score by an easy 20 lengths from British duo Tabitha Worsley on Rossmore Lad and Gina Andrews aboard Otto The Great, who were split by a head for second.

The nine-year-old is trained by Martin Weston at Hindlip in Worcestershire, and O'Sullivan said, "He was brilliant. His name tells it all - Cut The Corner. He is sharp and cuts round the bends. I was very lucky. He flew round there."

Owner Abs Banks, the 7-1 shot's regular rider, added, "She rode him beautifully and got him jumping well."

O'Sullivan's success saw Ireland increase their lead to 33-29.

And the visitors clinched victory when Codd led home an Irish one-two-three on Ka Maresco for Fran Moller's Sibford Ferris stables, near Hook Norton, in the Tattersalls Ireland Four, Five And Six-Year-Olds Maiden over two miles and five furlongs.

The dual Irish champion made much of the running on the 6-4 favourite to cross the line ten lengths clear of Barry O'Neill on Irish Legionnaire, with the O'Connor-ridden Big Time Frank third.

Codd said, "It's nice to win an English point-to-point. We were joking inside which ones we would like to ride and he was obviously the one with form and that's the luck of it."

Owner Hugh Wilson missed the win as he was flying to north Canada to film a wildlife documentary, but his father, Guy, said of Codd, "He is a very good jockey, but all eight are good and I would not have minded any of them."

The result gave Ireland an unassailable 58-32 lead, and they capped a dominant display with Lalor landing the six-runner Connolly's Red Mills Anglo-Irish Intermediate Race over two miles and five furlongs on 14-1 outsider Harris Garden.

She sent the ten-year-old maiden into the lead at the fourth last and he went clear to complete a 314-1 double for Hill's yard, with O'Sullivan ten lengths back in second on Blazing Tom and Andrews third aboard Knockedoutloaded.

Lalor said, "He couldn't have done it any easier. The Hills were brilliant before and told me everything to do with him."

Hill, who owns Harris Garden with his assistant, Hugh Jarvis, said, "Hugh is the proudest man in Great Britain tonight. He will walk ten foot tall tomorrow."

The Irish men, sponsored by Irish Thoroughbred Marketing, beat their British counterparts 40-16 with O'Connor (17) the top points scorer, while their ladies triumphed 41-27, with O'Sullivan (20) leading the way.

And Hill added, "It has been a great day. We are very privileged that we got 15 top jockeys here. It is a bit of history for Kingston Blount."

Men - Great Britain 16pts (J Dawson 8, E David 5, W Biddick 3, A Edwards 0), Ireland 40 (D O'Connor 17, J Codd 12, B O'Neill 11, N McParlan 0).
Ladies - Great Britain 27 (T Worsley 11, G Andrews 10, C Hardwick 0, Non-Runner 6), Ireland 41 (M O'Sullivan 20, L Lalor 15, L O'Neill 6, S Larkin 0).
Overall - Great Britain 43, Ireland 81.

The two supporting races provided a double for 16-year-old James Bowen, which saw him equal the British record of 25 winners by a novice rider in a season held jointly by Rhys Flint and Nick Scholfield. Bowen, who has only been riding since his birthday on March 12, had to survive an objection after Flying Eagle, trained by his brother, Mickey, at Haverfordwest, completed a four-timer with a four-lengths win over Pride Of Parish in a match for the opening Betfair Men's Open.

Joe Hill, rider of the second, lodged a complaint that the winner had taken the wrong course in that Bowen had passed a red disc to his left by the winning post.
But the stewards allowed the placings to stand as they found that the disc was after the winning line.

Bowen completed his double with a terrific ride on Tempelpirate, who recorded an eighth course win in the closing Kingston Blount Racing Club Members Conditions Race for novice riders. The teenager produced the 11-10 favourite to collar Brians Well at the last, and his mount stayed on well to score by three lengths. Reflecting on matching Flint and Scholfield's tally, Bowen, who plans to take out a conditional jockey's licence after the season's final fixture at Umberleigh, said: "If I do as good as them I'll be very happy."

Tempelpirate's triumph was a timely tonic for Beedon trainer Tim Underwood, who was in the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading after being kicked by a pony, and suffering three broken ribs, a haematoma of the colon and a damaged spleen. He underwent an operation, and was released on Saturday.


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