The guys from www.p2p.ie (@p2p.ie) are back with their latest column for us, and with the season drawing to a close, there is plenty to talk about. This month, they give us the lowdown on the growing impact the Irish P2P scene has had on the National Hunt game...
Those who choose to follow former-pointers under rules would not have been disappointed during a busy April period. The Aintree festival came hot on the heels of the Cheltenham feature and the success of One For Arthur in the Randox Health Grand National gave the industry another favourable boost.
With pointers filling half of the 40-runner field in the Liverpool staying chase, it was the Milan gelding who fetched €60,000 from Tattersalls following a win at Lingstown for handler Liam Kenny, that came home best to win. Barry O'Neill rode him for his initial success between the flags and Grand National fourth Blaklion finished back in third for Colin McKeever that day, a story which has been well received since. A winning pot of £561,300, the eight-year-old was providing pointers with their second consecutive victory in the handicap chase following the win of Gigginstown recruit Rule The World last year.
The story of the year from a pointing perspective has undoubtedly been two-time Grade 1 winner Finian's Oscar. We have highlighted in previous months how highly we rate the Portrush maiden winner and the Alan Potts £250,000 purchase further enhanced his reputation in April, running out an impressive three-length winner of the Grade 1 Betway Mersey Novices' Hurdle at the Aintree festival. At the end of a hard season, he again showed his class when finishing a close-up second at the Punchestown festival most recently.
Former Sean Doyle-trained and Monbeg Stables inmate The Worlds End was also in Grade 1 winning form at Aintree, winning the Doom Bar Sefton Novices' Hurdle by a half-length.
We had no such luck in the Irish Grand National but there were a couple of notable victories for former pointers over the Fairyhouse Easter meeting. Grade 3 handicap chase winner at the Cheltenham festival, Road To Respect improved again to take the Grade 1 Ryanair Gold Cup Novice Chase. The Monksgrange maiden winner for Eoin Griffen, took advantage of some questionable jumping from fellow pointer Yorkhill, to take the two and a half-mile contest by a neck. £335,000 purchase Samcro did his reputation no harm either, winning a bumper by 17-lengths under Lisa O'Neill. Unbeaten in four starts, it will be exciting to see him line-up in some of the major races next season.
Fresh in the memory is the Punchestown festival and again we seen some notable performances from pointers. Champagne Classic was a classy winner of the Martin Pipe handicap hurdle at the Cheltenham festival and showed his talent again when winning the Grade 1 Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle on day two of the festival. Not bad from reportedly the worst horse that owner Michael O'Leary has in training!
Handler Jonathan Sweeney also had a festival to remember, with his Lingstown winning mare Minutestomidnight landing the Grade 3 Weatherbys General Stud Book E.B.F. Mares Flat Race. She looks a smart horse and sold for €200,000 after racing on Thursday.
The Grade 1 Tattersalls Ireland Champion Novice Hurdle on Friday, produced arguably the best result for us, with pointers filling the first three places. In a steadily run contest, it was the Willie Mullins-trained Bacardys who came out on top in a thrilling finish.
The afore mentioned Finian's Oscar ran another blinder to finish second, with Death Duty staying on well for third. Bacardys began his career with Pat Doyle, carrying the colours of Veterinary Surgeon Walter Connors in two point-to-points, falling at Rathmorrissey on debut in March 2015, before winning in impressive fashion at Quakerstown a fortnight later when running out a nine-length winner.
One of the by-lines of the season has been the constant battle between Gordon and Willie to become leading national hunt trainer in Ireland this season. Not the profitable Punchestown festival that trainer Gordon Elliott would have wanted but he still managed to go close to winning his first trainers title. Beaten by a deficit of just €199,455 from leading trainer Willie Mullins, it was still some effort to have realised a total of €4,380,705 for the season in Ireland.
As we know Gordon is a big supporter of the point-to-point circuit and it is no surprise to see that former pointers played a leading role in nearly securing him this title. Pointers accounted for €1,176,937 of the winning prize money alone. That is 27% of his total earnings of the season and doesn't take into account the place money pointers would have picked up for the County Meath trainer throughout the season. His leading pointers included Ball D'arc who was a winner of four races and won €113,001 in winning prize money, while Death Duty and Wrath Of Titans both smashed the €100,000 mark in winning prize money this season.
We also had another bumper Tattersalls Cheltenham sale in April, with a total sales value of £3,000,500. Some to keep an eye going forward include top lot on the day, Global Citizen who fetched £275,000 for handler Willie Murphy following an impressive win at County Louth track Bellurgan Park. The second that day has won since, while the fifth and sixth have both come out and run into a place.
Gordon Elliott bought Loughanmore winner Battleoverdoyen for £235,000 and he is sure to make a big impact under rules going forward. Chooseyourweapon for the Monbeg Syndicate and Princess Roxy for Ballyboy Stables were bought for big sums and are also worth popping into your tracker.
The p2p.ie sponsored bumpers (p2p.ie Irish Point To Point Website Point-To-Point Flat Race) are due to take place at Tipperary racecourse on the 11th of May, former winners including nine-time track winner and Grade 3 winning mare For Bill for Mick Winters and Christdalo who won the race for John Brassil before winning twice and finishing second in a Cheltenham listed event for trainer David Pipe.
With this year's races in mind, handler Sean McParlan looks to hold leading chances in both the geldings' and mares' races. As The Crow Flies has won his last five starts for the handler and the Presenting gelding has proven himself to be a top-class performer this term. Holycross Lito has been another prolific scorer for McParlan, the Beneficial mare winning four times since making her debut at Oldtown in February. Both will take a bit of stopping if lining up at Tipperary.
As the point-to-point season begins to wind down, it has been a term to remember. Pointers are selling for huge figures and these numbers are being justified with performances on the track. We had 38 four-year-old autumn winners in 2016, 11 which have gone on to win on the track. Ten of those 38 have placed, with ten still to run.
That is 29% winning strike rate when moving from the point-to-point circuit to the track, while its a 55% win or place return. Those are good figures and are likely to improve as more pointers continue to make an impact on the track.