August at the earliest for Downpatrick racing date

August at the earliest for Downpatrick racing date

20 May 2020

IRISH horse racing is set to resume behind closed doors on June 8 with only key personnel being permitted to attend.

The last meeting before the closedown took place on March 24, while the last local meeting was the Randox Ulster National at Downpatrick on Sunday, March 22.

This means that Downpatrick has lost its two May meetings and with flat racing being prioritised for the first month, the popular local venue will also lose its two mid-June fixtures, as no flat racing takes place at the venue. 

Downpatrick manager Richard Lyttle, hopes that the track will still be able to race on the two August dates, one of which is the very popular Bank Holiday Ladies’ Day meeting, but sadly the family day in July will not happen this year.

Downpatrick doesn’t race from October until March, but if things get back to normal perhaps they may be able to get a new date.

Back in the 1999 point-to-point season the North Down meeting took place at Mount Alexander, Comber, on Tuesday, April 16.

It is a meeting that means a lot these days to top local amateur rider, Mark O’Hare, as it was at this popular venue, owned by Alex Murdoch, that he recorded his first ever winner.

After winning on Ringneill, owned by Miss Siobhan MacKinnon at this season’s Armagh meeting, Mark set a record by riding a winner in every season since that initial success.

The Banbridge farrier, who worked in the building trade back in the Nineties, was successful on Cinders Slipper, owned by Bishopscourt man Scobie Curran and trained by Newry’s Liam Lennon, in the Michael O’Grady Memorial Mares Maiden.

Liam fell in the race on Cathal McGovern’s Copper Denel, which he also trained. Second past the judge Iain Duff was Supersat, ridden by Leo Gracey, with James McGurgen third on John Megaw’s Gortmerron Lady.

Mark is now the only local amateur to have ridden out his racecourse riders claim.

The First Trust Maiden race was divided and in the first division Jackie Kidd from Loughinisland won on Tullamore, owned and trained by her father, Mayne, beating Brian Dougan on his own Russell Lodge, with Jimmy Henry third on Redheadmustgo.

The winner of the second division was Cortynan in the colours of Dr Fitz Gillespie, who sadly passed away recently.

This one providing Glyne Dyne with his third career success. Bend in the River was second ahead of Crawfordstowncross, with Jimmy Henry in the saddle.

In the Ulster Bank Open race Liam Lennon had his first winner of the day as a trainer when Younowhat, which he also rode, won in the colours of Moira’s Jim McMullan.

He also saddled the runner-up, Patsy Murphy’s Blackout, ridden by Mark O’Hare. Glencloy was third. 

The W & C Glazing Ltd two winner race saw Banbridge rider James Smyth record his first success of the season when successful on Supreme Lancer, in the colours of Mrs Carol Rooney from Newry. Second was Cepu Gale with Colin Andrews third on Golden Start. It was Smyth’s fourth career success, his first having been at Comber. 

Eleven took part in the Bewley’s Open Race for lady riders with victory going to Comber owner Elizabeth O’Prey’s Where’s Sam, ridden by Caroline Barker.

Jackie Kidd was second on her neighbour Norman McKnight’s Lady Zaffaran, with the veteran Voloi third. Sadly, Lucy Townley, who fell in the race, has since passed away.

The day’s racing got under way with the Confined Hunt Race sponsored by Premier Wines.

Always in Trouble, carrying 13.5, won under his owner, Co Tyrone man Barry Potts, from Three Town Rock, in the colours of Ballygowan builder Barney Mullan, with Leo Gracey in the saddle. Back in third came Clerhane Rose, in the colours of Ballygowan’s Vincent Murray with Eamon Magee in the saddle.

Acting stewards were Dr Royson Turner, Ken Stitt, Jimmy Wilson, Frankie Fitzsimons and Billy Vance.

Comber, as the North Down meetings are still referred to by many, was a very popular venue, but sadly no longer available.

The meeting always drew large crowds as it was in the centre of the town and along with the locals being able to walk in, there was also plenty of room to park.

The venue was used for a BBC TV programme called Sporting Traditions, which has been shown on numerous occasions.