P.J. in the top ten
Taghmon jockey is an unsung hero
I OFTEN think P.J. McDonald from Monastery Avenue, Taghmon, does not get the credit he deserves from the racing fraternity here in Ireland, as his achievements on the flat in England are quite remarkable.
Operating from his North Yorkshire base, he ended the calendar year with 120 winners, his second successive time to top the one hundred mark and just eight behind last year despite losing nearly two months to injury. He was ninth in the Racing Post table for the calendar year.
His top ten placing is put in perspective when you consider that 262 riders had winners in Britain last year, showing just how competitive the game is over there.
Among those behind him were William Buick, Ryan Moore, Frankie Dettori, Paul Hanagan, Martin Harley, Jamie Spencer, Andrea Atzeni and a host of other wellknown names.
He kept himself very busy with nearly 900 rides and earned just over £1.5m Stg. in prize money. His consistency is illustrated by his 112 seconds and 103 thirds.
Over the jumps, Tom O’Brien ended the old year with a winner at Taunton, scoring on Beltor (5/1) for Robert Stephens. He also began the new year in impressive style at Sandown on Saturday with an all-the-way win on Elixir De Nutz (3/1) in the €50k Grade 1 Tolworth novices hurdle for Colin Tizzard.
This brought him to 57 winners for the season so far, already four more than he got for the entire previous season.
Daryl Jacob has been more selective in his rides, working mainly for his retained owners, Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, but he has 36 winners since the season began in April and won seven Grade 1s and four Grade 2s in 2018.
He took the opening Unibet Juvenile Hurdle at Sandown on Saturday with the hot favourite, Torpillo (3/10), for Nigel Twiston-Davies, and followed up on Sunday at Plumpton with a win on French-trained Master Dino (11/10).
A bit of history was made at Punchestown on Monday, December 31, the last Irish card to be shown on the At The Races channel. While it is too early to judge the new set-up on Racing TV, I liked the ATR coverage and regret its passing.
This is especially so because the new channel won’t be available on the usual Sky Sports package, and people will have to pay extra now to see live Irish racing.
There was New Year’s Day racing at Tramore and Fairyhouse, and the only Wexford winner was Paul Nolan’s Crazyheart (7/2) under Davy Russell at Tramore. He also had a couple of thirds, including Roney, ridden by Ruby Walsh
At Fairyhouse, Seán Flangan was second on Colin Bowe’s Western Victory (4/1), beaten by the Willie Mullins hotshot, Sister Sarah (4/7). He also had a couple of thirds, including on Liz Doyle’s Cairnhill (7/4jf).
At Cork on Saturday it was good to see Seán O’Keeffe back in action after a relatively minor injury. He was third in the opening novice hurdle on Liz Doyle’s One First Cut (5/1).
Joseph O’Brien’s well-backed Fakir D’oudairies got in as a reserve in the maiden hurdle and was guided to victory in a field of 22 by his first cousin, J.J. Slevin, ahead of a Willie Mullins favourite, Fast Buck (9/4).
Flanagan won the maiden hurdle snugly enough on Noel Meade’s Gigginstown charge, Eurobot (11/2), taking advantage of a fall three out by the smooth travelling Mullins favourite, Clinton Hill (6/4).
Barry O’Neill went close in the concluding bumper on Henry De Bromhead’s Falco De Candale Aa (7/1). He was clear with a furlong to go but was collared near the line by Noel Meade’s favourite, Behind the Curtain (11/4).
At Naas on Sunday, Flanagan had another very nice winner for Meade, with Validieu (10/3) taking the maiden hurdle by six and a half lengths.
Meade feels this one may be a potential Grade 1 performer.
Flanagan’s 35 winners has him in fifth place in the riders’ table despite losing two months after an August fall at Tramore.
Paul Nolan’s horses are running into good form and he went close to a double at Naas. Merie Devie (5/2) won under Bryan Cooper and is owned by John Brennan.
He was left in front at the last when Rachael Blackmore was unseated under pressure on High School Days (5/4f), but Cooper felt he would have won anyway.
Earlier Nolan and Cooper had been foiled in the final yards when Quamino (9/1) was caught on the line by Mark Walsh on Joseph O’Brien’s Punches Cross (2/1f).
Taghmon jockey P.J. McDonald
Barry O’Neill from Kiltealy.