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Big crowd turnout for Sam Curling open day

Fresh from his most successful point-to-point campaign to date, Tipperary handler Sam Curling opened up the gates of his Skehanagh stables on Saturday morning to visitors ahead of the new campaign.

Many well-known faces from within the sport, including Ted Walsh Jr and Nina Carberry, Jamie Codd, Derek O’Connor and Davy Russell, current and prospective owners, locals and point-to-point enthusiasts, all gathered at the impressive yard just outside of Dundrum which has been home to Curling’s training operation since 2010.

The picturesque stable, which was immaculately presented under the morning’s blue skies, certainly boasts an impressive set of facilities surrounding the 45-stable main yard, including a 7f sand and woodchip straight gallop, 2 ½ f sand circle gallop, 2f schooling strip, two walkers, a sand ring for loose schooling, lunge ring and paddocks stretched across 100 acres of grassland.

Those in attendance were treated to a full morning of activities, with a number of horses parading in front of them in the sand arena, before a new batch of horses took to the gallops. Guests were then offered refreshments in a well-presented marquee that was decorated with the racing colours of his owners and pictures of some of their most successful horses, including the retired Klassy, and new stable star Longhouse Music.

The yard, which is based at his homeplace, has produced over 90 winners in the time since, including a career best 32 last season, which saw him finish the season in second place on the handler’s leaderboard with a 35% strike rate, far and above the other handlers in the top four.



Those 32 winners included a record-breaking 13 for last season’s champion mare and joint-champion point-to-point horse, Longhouse Music, who was the undoubted star attraction. The trainer was looking forward to the new season and told the morning’s MC Ken Whelan that John Duggan’s 10-year-old is currently being readied for another campaign in the pointing fields as she looks to add to her 17 points victories to date.

Curling looks set to have a strong team of horses for the open division in particular, as both Some Are Lucky and B L Swagger are also set to return to the sphere.

The latter has been a real stalwart at Skehanagh Stables, and heads into his sixth season with Curling.

“He joined the yard at the end of 2014 and has been a very consistent top open horse every year since. A strong traveller and a brilliant jumper, he needs things to fall right and his races to be run at a strong pace to be seen at his best,” said Curling of the Tessa Foreman-owned 11-year-old.

“He had some very good runs last season and if he gets his preferred soft ground, I’m sure he can add to his tally this season.”



Foreman’s colours will also be carried by B L Swagger’s stablemate Aloneamongmillions, a six-year-old that Curling described as “potentially a top class point-to-pointer.” The six-year-old, who made a winning debut at Ballyragget last March will start off his season once the ground eases and is expected to be seen at his best on soft ground.
Both horses were well looked after by their owner who was spotted with treats of apples and carrots for her stars.

Former Grade 2-winner Wounded Warrior joined Curling’s team last year after being bought from his former owners Gigginstown House Stud for £43,000. Following a season under rules with Curling and new owners Direct Bloodstock, which culminated in a third at the Punchestown Festival, the 10-year-old will now be heading between the flags.

“After a long summer break at John Duggan’s, he has come back in looking super and the plan is to start him off in an open in the autumn. We will see how he takes to pointing and feel our way. Hopefully he will be able to contest some of the better hunter chases in the spring,” added Curling.



His open team for the upcoming season is also bolstered by the addition of another new horse in Lite Duties. Eamon Casey’s 10-year-old has made the journey from Charles Byrnes’ Limerick yard, where he was a four-time winner from 15 starts, the last of those victories coming at Cork in January 2018.

Not seen since finishing tailed off in his last of three starts in beginners chase’s at Naas some 10 months ago, the son of Mountain High will run in point-to-points before Curling hopes to take in a few hunter chases in the spring, whilst After Eight Sivola is back having picked up an injury when fourth to Stand Up And Fight at Dromahane last autumn.

The nine-year-old, who was a winner at Ballingarry under Liz Lalor in 2018, is back going well and will make his return to competitive action.

Summerville Boy and Raya Time are just some of the young horses that have graduated from Curling’s yard in recent years, and he also has a big team of young horses, that will feature in both young maidens in point-to-points, and bumpers on the track.

That includes over 20 four-year-old’s and an even bigger team of three-year-old’s for a range of owners from around the country, and they include youngsters by Flemensfirth, Mahler, Yeats, Dylan Thomas, September Storm, Milan, Blue Bresil, Robin Des Champs and Doyen.

There is certainly a lot to look forward to for all in Skehanagh.



 

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