Garvan Donnelly must be pleased with the start he has had to the Flat season. The Dubliner secured his first success of the Turf campaign with Plough Boy in the Caragh Nurseries Handicap at Naas on Saturday.
Last year, Donnelly had one winner from 42 runners and he only had the solitary triumph the season before too, having had three the campaign prior to that and eight in his best year, 2015. In that context, to get off the mark after just eight runners will make everyone at Garristown feel good about themselves.
Donnelly has invariably saddled winners at Dundalk, which is almost a local track. In 2014, 2015 and 2015 he sent out six, two and four on the all-weather. The yield was not so strong in recent times but Lily’s Prince did prevail at the Louth venue in March.
With two winners from just 30 runners for the calendar year, Donnelly will be targeting an improvement on last year’s tally of three and is well on the way at this juncture.
Although he has tended to house inmates more suited to Dundalk fare, Donnelly’s most significant triumph as a trainer came by virtue of Inistioge in a Grade 3 mares’ novice chase at Limerick in 2010, and after the subsequent seven seasons failed to provide any winner from a very limited number of runners in the National Hunt, he has entered the winner’s enclosure in each of the last two seasons, from 10 runners last term and nine the season before.
Mark Cahill is on a 100 per cent strike rate for the National Hunt season, after Pilgrim Way bagged the Horse & Jockey Hotel Handicap Hurdle at Cork on Saturday.
The trainer and his eight-year-old gelding were rewarding owner Frank McNulty for his patience in them both, as Cahill gave Bridge Native the time to come to hand after suffering trouble with two legs.
The son of Kalanisi clearly has a liking for the Mallow venue, finishing second there three weeks ago, on his first run since the end of July 2016.
This was the first of three winners for Seán Flanagan over the weekend, as he followed up with a double at Killarney on Sunday. Unusually, none of the trio was for his boss Noel Meade, with yesterday’s pair coming for long-time supporter Liz Doyle (Feel Des Mottes) and Colin Bowe (Victoria Bay).
Leigh Roche returned from a successful winter stint in India to hit the ground running in his new job as retained rider to Crotanstown Stud trainer Michael O’Callaghan and the Galwegian booted home two winners to bring his tally for the Turf campaign to five, and six for the year in total.
O’Callaghan has adopted a ‘best available’ stance on jockeys in recent seasons but Roche was his primary go-to man in 2018 and they combined successfully on a number of occasions, not least in Listed company with Angelic Light at Newmarket last November.
Roche had a long association with Dermot Weld, and piloted a couple of Group 3 winners for the Rosewall House handler. His other Group 3 triumph came on board the Darren Bunyan-trained Hit The Bid.
Lorelei Rock won on debut at Naas in an Irish EBF maiden that also offered a Plus 10 bonus to winning connections on Saturday and Royal Ascot is being considered for Camacho juvenile filly.
Roche bagged his second success of the weekend in the John R Fitzpatrick Irish EBF Handicap at Leopardstown. Bercasa was his first winner for an outside trainer, and Tom Mullins would have been delighted by the manner in which Roche brought the dual-purpose filly into the race late on after settling her towards the rear, to win comfortably.