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Champions Crowned | First regional title for King

The race to become the Southern Champion is so often the most hotly contested of the regional titles, and despite the 2019/20 season coming to a premature end, owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, it proved to be no different, with the top five riders covered by just three winners.

At the start of the season, Derek O’Connor would have been the favourite to retain that regional title, having won it for the past two seasons, and ten times in total, however he came up just one winner short, as Pa King claimed his first regional title.

Sixteen winners in all has seen the Tipperary native match his best ever total between the flags, a personal record which stood for 12 years since 2008, a season that he was last crowned champion, having landed the Under-21 title.

Thirteen of those 16 successes came in the Southern region, with a new partnership with fellow Tipperary native Sam Curling, which began to pay dividends last season, playing a major part in the title success.

Ten of King’s winners in the region were aboard Curling runners, which has really brought the former Under-21 rider to the fore once again.

Just two season’s ago, King rode only one winner from 64 rides, the sixth consecutive season that his season-ending total remained in single-digit figures. However in a significant turnaround, last season he had 93 rides, producing 11 winners, a figure he has further bolstered in the 2019/20 campaign, to end the season with a 25% strike rate, his best to date, with a 36% strike rate in the Southern region.

On his way to claiming a first title, King rode a pair of doubles, and two further trebles, the first of which came at Aghabullogue in January.

Here he was successful aboard Knockanora Damsel in the mares’ maiden, Templebredin in the winner-of-one contest and Lite Duties in the open, all of whom were for the Skehannagh Stables operator.

The latter named horse also featured in the second of his season's trebles, which came at Lismore on what proved to be the penultimate weekend of the foreshortened season.

Justifying his odds-on favourite's tag, Curling’s 11-year-old prevailed easily by eight lengths, adding to King’s other successes on the card aboard Tom Keating’s Shuil Luas in the winner-of-two, and Garrett Power’s Dontlikethat in the unplaced maiden.

King’s earlier successes for the Curling yard gaining the attentions of other handlers across the country as he also rode winners throughout the season for Robert Tyner, Willie Murphy and Patrick O’Farrell.

Derek O’Connor ended the season just one winner shy of King, with Conna native John Barry completing the Southern podium a further winner back in third.


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