Piltown and the surrounding district houses so many training establishments that it could be favourably compared to the Curragh.
Two trainers, David O’Brien and Tom Walsh, hit the jackpot last week by visiting the winners enclosure at different venues.
David O’Brien has continued the tradition set by his father Frank as a great man to produce a young horse. He was on the mark at Limerick on Thursday when Collen Beag caused a 25/1 upset in the bumper.
Making her racecourse debut, the daughter of Mountain High raced well off the pace in the early stages but began to creep into the race leaving the back straight. Jockey Pa King sent her to the front a furlong and a half out and from there she ran on strongly to beat Thats Nice by a neck with the Margaret Mullins-trained favourite Xpectations a length further back in third place.
Out of the Old Vic mare Well Water, the winner is owned and was bred by Tony Slattery from near Fethard who has produced many good horses over the years. Although she is not overly big, Collen Beag certainly has an engine. On this evidence she will have no trouble collecting her maiden hurdle.
Johnstown-based John Nicholson has his string in fine fettle and his bargain buy Well Tuned ran out a convincing winner of what looked a very competitive mares Novice hurdle over two mile and four.
Purchased for just €1,000 at the Tattersalls August sale two years ago, the daughter of Flemensfirth landed her bumper on fast ground at Punchestown last September and has run well in some well contested maiden hurdles since.
With jockey Kevin Sexton making every post a winning one the five-year-old, although joined by Beach Of Falesa at the last, rallied well to win by a length and three-parts.
In his post-race remarks Nicholson revealed that his charge is not going to Galway. A good ground specialist, she should make her mark over fences in time.
Willie Mullins limbered up for the big Ballybrit meeting when taking the two mile and three novice chase courtesy of Devils Bride. A dual bumper winner, the son of Helissio was a course winner over hurdles before recording an eye-catching success on his chasing debut at Roscommon. The only one punters were interested in, Devils Bride made all the running in the hands of Paul Townend. Obviously relishing the fast underfoot conditions, Devils Bride will be kept on the go while conditions remain the same.
There were some nostalgic memories recalled when Springfield Gray ran out an impressive winner of the three mile 80-95 handicap hurdle at Wexford on Friday. Owned, trained and bred by Tom Walsh, the Great Palm gelding ran a blinder at Tipperary the previous week and proved this was no flash in the pan by justifying strong support.
Given a cracking ride by 7lb claimer Shane Crimin, the nine-year-old came for his race going down the back straight before leading three out. Despite not being fluent at the final flight he ran out a comfortable four and a half winner from Milan Ridge. Walsh said that the horse has had a few training issues but has plenty of ability and will now head to Bellewstown for a similar type of contest in a couple of weeks.
The trainer and his family have spent a lifetime in the racing and breeding game and it is people like this that have put racing where it is today. Before taking up training Tom rode in plenty of success in point-to-points and had a famous victory on a horse called Springtime Lad at Blackbog when the money was down. Walsh’s father bred Carraroe, who was later to become a Galway Plate winner for Phonsie O’Brien but she failed to go in foal when retired to the breeding paddocks.
Since turning his attention to training Tom has turned out a steady stream of winners over the years and is justifiably proud of saddling both Graigue Lady and Graiguenamon to six consecutive victories. In Springfield Grey he has a horse that is improving - the best is yet to come.
The equestrian world was in mourning when the death of Tommy Brennan was announced.
Born and reared not far from the village of Dunnamaggin, Brennan was one of the finest horsemen the county produced. He blazed a trail in the showjumping and eventing game before taking up course building. Having competed in the three-day event at the Tokyo Olympics he was part of the Irish team to win gold at the World Championships at Burghley.
Equally successful at showjumping and as a bloodstock agent, Brennan was something of a pioneer when it came to course building. The Hunt Chase, the feature of show week at the RDS, is a testament to his innovative skills. Sympathy went to his family on their bereavement.