Cheltenham Festival 2018
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Finian's Oscar Success And Irish P2P Horses For The Notebook

Founder of, Richard Pugh (@Pughp2p), is back with his latest column for This month, Richard looks back at the amazing success of former Irish P2P horses on the sport over the last month, and also picks out some horses to follow...

In what was a busy Christmas period within racing, followers of point-to-point’s were not left disappointed as many of the graduates enjoyed a profitable spell over the festive holidays. A total of 70 ex-Irish point-to-pointers claimed success within a seven day period, with nine of them landing listed and graded pots. These outstanding statistics further emphasis the growing and continuous strength of Irish point-to-point form that is being produced each season.

Last season we were treated to many impressive displays from the younger maidens in the point-to-point field, and some of the most notable names from last season appeared over the Christmas break. Redhotfillypeppers, Next Destination and Carter McKay, all of which are four & five-year-old winners from last season, made winning starts for their new connections since our last column. Strikingly, each of the trio were all trained to victory by the same trainer, Willie Mullins.

The quality within the four-year-old maiden division throughout the autumn season has without a doubt been one of the most competitive seasons so far. One of the most talked about young horses in training at the moment, Finian’s Oscar, supports this view, following his win in the Grade one Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown on January seventh.  An eight length winner of his four-year-old maiden at Portrush in late October, the Denis Paul Murphy-trained gelding caught many followers attention having quickened away on the run to the last to win easily and highlighting himself as a potential high class sort.

Unsurprisingly, he caused a stir in the sales ring and forced his new handler Colin Tizzard and bloodstock agent Tom Malone, to go as far as £250,000 at the Tattersalls Ireland Cheltenham November sale. To back up the form of his debut run, Mr Clarkson, who found himself eight lengths behind Finian’s Oscar in Portrush, has since gone on to win his next two starts for his new handler, David Pipe, which includes a bumper and a maiden hurdle. Finian’s Oscar’s five length victory over proven Grade two winner Capitaine in the Tolworth hurdle, highlights the strength and depth which is presently competing between the Irish point-to-point flags.

Excitingly, another point to note is the previous Irish point-to-point graduate to have made the same path with success in the Tolworth hurdle and following that up two months later with a win in the Neptune Investment Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham festival, is the ex. Colin McKeever trained Yorkhill.

The Alan & Ann Potts owned Finian’s Oscar is the current ante-post favourite for this grade one affair which leaves it highly possible that he could repeat Yorkhill’s success. He is however, a year younger than his predecessor was when he landed his festival win and should he be successful in this pursuit, he will be the first horse since Fundamentalist to win at the Cheltenham festival in the same year as he won his point-to-point.

Finian’s Oscar has not been the only one flying the flag for the four-year-old maiden winners from the autumn campaign, as we have witnessed some fine track performances from names such as Benatar and the above mentioned Mr Clarkson. Benatar ran out an impressive 15 length victory on his debut in October at Loughbrickland for his handler Karen Mc Neilly.

The son of Beneficial, caught many followers attention that Saturday afternoon following a flawless display of jumping and posted the quickest time of the day which was 14 seconds faster than the course average. Since being snapped up by Gary Moore, he has not disappointed his new connections having posted a 10 length win at Fontwell in early January in a maiden hurdle.

This exciting sort along with the other above mentioned autumn four-year-olds have won over distances much shorter than in their Irish point-to-point debuts thus showing the versatility of horses that Irish point-to-points are producing each season.

As I have previously said, the autumn point-to-point season has definitely been one of the most competitive yet. The above winners have proven that the quality and depth it has produced can be stood over, however there is a number of autumn winners that are worth noting over the coming weeks when they make their track appearances for their new yards.

Mon Palois, won his four-old-maiden on his second start for owner/handler John Halley in Grennan at the beginning of November. He provided a rare winner over jumps for his sire Muhaymin, and a first between the flags in Ireland, who stands in Haras Des Faunes in France. He struck many as a sort that would be better suited to shorter distances and thus it is not surprising to see he has entries in two bumpers for his new handler Kim Bailey over the coming week.

Another noteworthy graduate to hopefully make their debut appearance in the near future is Rosie Mc Queen. An eight length winner of her four-year-old mare’s maiden at Boulta at the end of November, the daughter of Milan has stayed in her point-to-point handler’s charge, Colin Bowe, having been bought for €95,000 at the Tattersalls Ireland Cheltenham December sale by J P Mc Manus.  Along with producing an impressive point-to-point success, this smart mare has a strong black type family and is a half-sister to Grade one winner Follow The Plan.

The start of February will see the start of the new four-year-old spring campaign where we could see many interesting and well-bred recruits make their debuts. If our autumn season was anything to go by, I am sure we will have many names to talk about in next month’s feature that will have caught the eye in the opening weeks and will be worth following into 2017. 

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