THREE of the graded winners at last weekend’s Dublin Racing Festival had won their point-to-points here in Cork, with Appreciate It, Honeysuckle, and Notebook all recording maiden point victories at Dromahane, back in 2018.
Conna rider, Johnny Barry, was in the saddle for Notebook’s point-to-point success, when the son of Samum triumphed in a five-year-old geldings’ maiden at the Cork track when under the tutelage of John Nallen. Barry believes that the seven-year-old gelding rates as one of the best jumpers he has ever ridden.
Notebook has been among the standout performers of the current National Hunt season, winning on all four of his starts. A modest enough hurdler by comparison, the Henry De Bromhead-trained gelding has looked a revelation since making the step-up to steeplechasing, and he remains unbeaten over the larger obstacles following his win in Saturday’s Irish Arkle.
Notebook is currently the ante-post favourite for the Arkle Chase at the upcoming Cheltenham Festival.
Speaking with The Echo, Barry said: “Notebook looks very good. He’s as good a jumper as I have ever ridden. He’s a very quick, accurate jumper. He’s a typical two-mile chaser.
“He won well at Leopardstown and I’d say all roads lead to Cheltenham now for the Arkle. It would be great if he could take a bit of beating there. I was actually second to (Saturday’s Grade Two bumper winner) Appreciate It at Dromahane. He looked good that day. The horse I rode, he’s called Catch The Swallows, won a couple of times for Trevor Hemmings over in England.
“Appreciate It looks the real deal. (Irish Champion Hurdle winner) Honeysuckle won her maiden in Dromahane then as well.”
Dromahane, one of the most active tracks on the point-to-point circuit, is renowned for producing high-class horses — with other subsequent graded winners such as Black Hercules, Marias Benefit, Native River, No More Heroes and Seeyouatmidnight having all run in Dromahane points — so perhaps it’s no surprise to see that trend continuing this term.
However, is there a particular reason why the track, located near Mallow, seems to be a hotspot for promising point-to-point graduates?
“It’s a fine, big galloping track. There are three fences up the straight. It’s a very fair track and there are very few hard-luck stories. People would generally keep a good horse for there.
“It’s a lovely track to ride and you can get into a lovely rhythm. The best horse generally always wins there on the day,” the local rider said.
Barry was among the winners at Belharbour, last Sunday, recording a double across the afternoon. He now sits in fifth place on the leading riders’ standings, with 12 winners for the current campaign.
‘‘I had a great day at Belharbour. I won the five-year-old geldings’ for John Nallen on a horse called Minella Escape. He is a very nice horse.
“He’s by Beat Hollow, so he should have a bright future ahead of him. I won the winners’ race on The Blind Piper. He’s a nice horse as well for Eddie Power. He’s well-bred, being related to a horse of Ben Pauling’s called Kildisart, and one of Colin Tizzard’s promising horses, The Big Breakaway. They are two nice horses and they won well.
“I’m having a great year again. Keeping injury-free is the main thing. Hopefully, we have a couple of nice promising horses to look forward to. From now on, it’s going to be very busy with the four-year-old races, which started last weekend.
“There could be a few future stars running every Sunday.’’ Barry, who has surpassed 20 winners in each of the last three point-to-point seasons, could be about to hit another milestone soon, with the 150 mark — for winners ridden between the flags — now firmly in view.
“After last week’s double, he sits on 149. The champagne will be on ice this weekend.
“I’ve one more winner to go and hopefully we can get it this weekend. I think I’m in action in Tallow, so it’s one of my local tracks. It would be great and it’s nice to get a winner on your home ground.”