Having trained for a number of years at nearby Skelton, Jonjo O'Neill has always had an affinity for Carlisle and the head of Jackdaws Castle sent out a double at the Cumbrian track's opening fixture. Springwell Bay had created a lasting impression on his British debut when winning a bumper at Market Rasen in November last year. Unfortunately, the ex-Irish gelding then suffered a nasty injury fracturing a joint which ruled him out for the remainder of the campaign. Returning from a break of 329 days and tackling hurdles for the first time, the Kayf Tara gelding overcame a steady early gallop before running on strongly to be former Irish pointer Iorens by three and a quarter lengths. The pair pulled nine lengths clear of the third. Jonjo O'Neill jnr felt afterwards that the five year old will be seen to even better advantage in a better race with a true gallop. Provided he has luck with injuries etc, he is an exciting horse for the future, while the runner-up won't have any problem going one better, especially in mares' novice hurdles.
Although ultimately well beaten in fifth, keep an eye on Piaff Bubbles in the coming weeks and months. Previously trained by Tom Lacey, the six year old was sold for £16,000 and was having his first outing for Rebecca Menzies. Fitted with a hood and held up in rear, he stayed on without troubling the principals. He is now eligible for handicaps and will be a different proposition in that sphere, especially when racing over further. He has only raced a handful of times and is open to plenty of improvement.
Jonjo's double was completed by expensive recruit Saint Davy (7/4) in the concluding bumper. Highlighted as a horse to follow in Declan Phelan's Irish Pointers article in One Jump Ahead, the Balko gelding won his only start 'between the flags' for Donnchadh Doyle before being acquired for £270,000. Given plenty of time to settle into his new surroundings, the five year old drifted in the market beforehand and came under pressure rounding the final bend. However, he stayed on gamely inside the final quarter of a mile and was firmly on top at the line. A four lengths winner, stamina looks his strong suit and he will benefit from racing over two and a half miles plus over timber later in the season. I suspect slower ground will also be an advantage. As discussed, Jonjo O'Neill has a smashing team of youngsters and this pair have bright futures.
If you haven't ordered your copy of One Jump Ahead or the Updates, please head to the Publications section of the site. I am working at Haydock Park on Friday and will therefore update the Diary over the weekend - there are plenty of runners from the Talking Trainers section of OJA declared to run on Friday and Saturday.
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