Having lost his northern title to Jamie Codd 24 hours earlier, Barry O’Neill re-ignited his challenge for a first ever southern title with a treble at Ballindenisk on Sunday.
The reigning national champion began the day trailing the nine-time southern champion Derek O’Connor by five winners, however with O’Connor electing to ride at Loughrea on the same afternoon, O’Neill began making inroads into the deficit when taking the Coolmore & McCarthy Commercials mares’ maiden aboard the formerly Stradbally-placed Hello Pilgrim.
Colin Bowe’s six-year-old was re-appearing for the first time since finishing fourth at Kinsale at the end of last season, however she made her belated seasonal re-appearance a winning one when defeating Esthers Marvel by four lengths in the 17-runners contest.
Bowe also supplied O’Neill with his second winner of the day in the following Tattersalls Ireland five and six-year-old geldings’ maiden with Collingwood Court.
Sporting the colours of Don Forster who also started off Irish Gold Cup winner Edwulf in points, the luckless son of Court Cave left two non-completions behind him when defeating Cronins Hill by six lengths.
The Wexford rider was back aboard one of the season’s leading horses, Kruzhlinin, for the seventh time when they faced six rivals in the Cork Plastics open. The Camilla Sharples-owned 12-year-old followed up his Loughanmore victory 24 hours earlier when getting the better of Electric Concorde, as the pair won their fifth race together.
That victory proved to be O’Neill’s 16th of the season within the southern region and leaves him just two winners adrift of O’Connor with two weekends of racing remaining.
Elsewhere, success at Loughrea for O’Connor in the open aboard Longhouse Music has left him level with Jamie Codd in the battle for the Senior title, whilst the placings remain unaltered in the ladies title race, with none of the title protagonists managing to get on the scoreboard.
Leaderboard pace-setter Susie Doyle had to settle for second in the open at Loughrea aboard Samanntom, whilst Maxine O’Sullivan had to settle for the same position in the open at Ballindenisk on her father’s Elegant Concorde.
That ensures Doyle remains on five winners, one clear of both O’Sullivan and reigning champion Liz Lalor, whilst Moira McElligott is a further winner adrift on three.