Seán’s lucky escape
Taghmon rider’s nasty fall in Bettyville
THE FINAL meeting of the year at Bettyville on Bank Holiday Monday illustrated the ups and downs of racing for young Taghmon rider, Seán O’Keeffe.
He had his first winner as a professional at Tramore in mid-August for Liz Doyle before suffering a collar bone injury that kept him out for nearly two months.
Liz again provided him with his second winner at Wexford on Monday after he had gone close with a couple of Paul Nolan-trained seconds the previous day.
He had a facile 16-length success on Cairnhill (11/4f) in the Kehoe Farming Handicap Hurdle, the only Wexford winner over the two days.
In the very next race, the Wexford Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles maiden hurdle won by Churchtown Glen (3/1) for Mick Winters from Cork, Seán was up near the front of a packing field when he and Captain Leo fell, bringing down two others in a nasty-looking incident.
He was on the ground for a while before being led to the ambulance and off to the nearby hospital to be checked out.
He explained to me on Friday: ‘I was out for about a minute and I was pretty dazed. I was sore all over the next day but I’m alright – I was stood down for concussion and I expect to be back in the coming week. I was unlucky to fall, but very lucky to escape as well as I did.’
Other races honoured legendary Wexford hurler Nick O’Donnell and Jim Whitty, founder of Whitford House Hotel, and sponsors included IRIS racing footage providers, the Wexford Vintners, and the listed €28,000 MW Hickey Memorial Chase won in fine style by Peregrine Run (5/4f).
Jockey Seán Flanagan had only recorded one treble up to last Sunday week; remarkably he racked up two more in what was surely one of the best seven days of his career.
He rode three at Galway last Sunday week (as I reported in the last issue), but he had an even better hat-trick at Down Royal on Saturday for boss, Noel Meade.
Highlight was the runaway win by 16 lengths of Road to Respect (6/4), in the JN Wines Grade 1 Chase. Road to Respect was far too good for a top-class field and he could be a live contender for all the top races again this season.
Flanagan followed up immediately in the 50k Grade 2 Chase on board an old ally, Snow Falcon (11/4), in another very good run, and both trainer and rider felt this one was now ready to be moved up to top flight.
The day had begun well for the pair with a one length win for Brace Yourself (6/4) in a maiden hurdle. Veteran trainer Meade could not contain his delight and he was full of praise for his jockey – ‘Seán is riding out of his skin’ was his succinct summation.
The pair had won the opening maiden hurdle up there on Friday with favourite, First Approach.
At Clonmel on Thursday, J.J. Slevin won for Joseph O’Brien on hot-shot Jack Dillinger, and point-to-point champ, Barry O’Neill, won the bumper on Waterford trainer Vincent Halley’s Tintown Robin (9/2).
Aidan O’ Brien sent a big team of 16 to Kentucky for the American Breeders Cup festival but came home without a winner. Best effort was by Magical in the €4m. turf race over twelve furlongs, going down under Ryan Moore after a huge battle with Frankie Dettori on John Gosden’s Enable.
In the concluding €6m Breeders Cup Classic, highlight of the festival, Ryan Moore rushed Mendelssohn up to the lead and stuck it out until the closing furlong when he was swallowed up by the fast finishers.
This was disappointing as the horse had been campaigned in America through the summer with this race in mind.
In the more mundane surroundings of Naas on Sunday, O’Brien won two of the three races he contested, Turnberry Isle (9/10) under Seamie Heffernan and Antilles (10/1) under Michael Hussey.
The O’Brien caravan moved on to Australia from the U.S., where the Melbourne Cup was contested early this Tuesday morning. He was pipped in it last year by his son, Joseph’s, Rekindling.