As Covid-19 continues to make its presence felt around the four corners of the globe, there really isn’t much we can do only follow the guidelines that have been handed down to us and if we all do our part this will go in no small way to ridding our little country of this horrible virus.
From a sport perspective there is nothing doing on a national scale or even a global scale at the moment and in times like this there isn’t much to do only look back and have a little reminiscing.
The last time our point to point season came to such an abrupt halt such as this was in 2001 when foot and mouth was the scourge to enter our country and with the transport of livestock banned the authorities had no option but to pull the plug on the point to points.
The season began on New Year’s Day at Dromahane and concluded at both Kildorrery and Killaloe on February 25, so a truncated season in earnest with just twenty three of the eighty nine scheduled meetings run off and, take into account that nineteen years ago, 4yr olds didn’t race until March 1, so the year was a disaster for them.
However, the knock on effect of foot and mouth was the start-up of what is now known as the Autumn session, this gave some reprieve to owners / trainers of 4yr olds and continues to do so right up to the present day and will be more than ever welcomed by all in the industry come late September / October of this year.
So what were the highlights of the 2001 season everybody will have their own but I’m guessing Davy Russell running away with the jockeys championship up to when the season came to a halt is surely high on the list. As is Beef or Salmon winning his maiden at Clonmel under the aforementioned Davy Russell.
I will digress a little here, another horse to win that year was Tuco. He won at Tallow for John O’Byrne before going on to join David Wachman. Tuco and Beef or Salmon met in a Fairyhouse 27 runner bumper with Tuco seeing off Beef or Salmon who finished third with 5l or so between them. Tuco was partnered by Mark Grant whilst Davy Russell had the spin on Beef or Salmon. This was the last time Russell rode Michael Hourigan’s great servant.
Anyway, at the time of the season ending, Russell had amassed some 19 winners with Eoin Gallagher finishing second on 10 and the previous year’s champion the late John Thomas McNamara third on the 9 winner mark.
In the regional awards Russell took the Southern and Western titles whilst Gordon Elliott took the Eastern and up North that accolade went to Leo Gracey, whilst Caroline Hutchinson was crowned Lady Riders champion. In the Novice riders section Paul Tobin from Tallow was crowned champion on the 3 winner mark, a foundation stone that saw Tobin go on to be one of the most stylish and accomplished bumper riders of the modern era.
Beef or Salmon made his career debut at Dungarvan, where he was partnered by a young Damian Murphy. However the pairing were upsides when tipping up at the last in a race won by Johnny McGrath on River Paradise in the infamous Robert Hawkins colours.
Following on from that fall Davy Russell was on board the 5yr old progeny of Cajetano when he sluiced up by 40l in a sixteen runner Clonmel maiden. This victory was one of four Russell enjoyed on the day in the eight race card. The Beef or Salmon story continued for many years after that initial victory, as he went on to amass over one million punts in prize money throughout his illustrious career.
Keen Leader created quite the stir when winning under James Sheehan at Knockanard for Tom Busteed and shortly after this victory the 5yr old son of Supreme Leader made his way over to Johnjo O’Neill where he went on to score eight times on the track. The runner-up on the day was a horse of the late Liam Cashman, called Silken Thyne, who on his previous outing ran in to the classy Ballyhampshire Boy (who himself went onto win four on the track for connections). Silken Thyne finished fourth that day behind Ballyhampshire Boy, with Nearly A Moose one spot in front of him in third and he subsequently went onto land a Galway Plate for Tom Mullins.
In Dungarvan also in 2001 Britway native Dan O’Donovan rode his first winner, on board Ask Henry, seeing off Valleymore and Eoin Gallagher. I could be wrong, but I’d say the late Bill Roynane of Templevalley bred both of these and I suspect Liam Burke trained them, but I’m grasping at straws there. Anyway, Valleymore did gain compensation at Kildorrery when winning there under Gal.
Trainer Gerry Kelleher is enjoying a great run at present with his stable star Mac’s Legend, but in 2001 he also had a decent type in a mare called Dygrande. The daughter of Good Thyne was second in Killeagh before going onto score in maiden company at Carrigtwohill and, from here under Tom Lombard, she went to Tipperary where she sluiced up in a split of the Gowla Bumper. As an aside on her defeat in Killeagh she ran into the well backed Star Accord who, under Gearoid Crowley, sluiced up for his trainer father Pat, from Ballyoran near Fermoy.
Sheltering was the top rated open horse for a third year in a row a remarkable feat in the sense that the 9yr old son of Strong Gale carried thirteen stone in most of his races and, at the end of the season short as it was, he was rated a stone better than Spot the Difference.