Darren Edwards: Locking horns with the Irish *H&H VIP*

  • I have penned this column in recovery mode, having recently returned from Co. Cork, where the third running of the Anglo-Irish Riders’ International Point-to-Point Challenge took place.

    The challenge saw the four leading male and female riders from Great Britain face off against our Irish counterparts.

    The event was not only a great social spectacle, but it was also an interesting insight into how the sport operates across the Irish Sea.

    The Inch point-to-point, held at Ballyanthony, Tallow, was fundamentally the same as any UK meeting, although I have never been to a course with only five fences on a circuit, nor where every race on the card was a maiden. Racing on a Wednesday afternoon was also novel.

    The racecard itself was nothing short of a small book, but without a contents page. The 108 pages seemed to contain advertisements for every other business in the county, which ranged from Ireland’s best-known studs to the local takeaway. Doubtless this generated some good income for the Killeagh Harriers.

    Each race carried a purse of €1,000 (£790), with €700 to the winner, €200 to the second, and €100 to the third. This is only a little short of some of our recognised Classic races.

    There were races for four-, five- and six-year-olds, split into mares and geldings, and finally a five-year-old and over open maiden.

    No horse — not even four-year-old mares — carried less than 11st 10lb (unless ridden by a novice rider), and all geldings carried 12st 1lb.

    This was music to the ears of the UK men (notably Welsh/nearly Irish heavyweight John Mathias), although news on the day that the men would be riding the five-year-old mares caused some anxiety.

    The big advantage of this approach is that, generally, it allows the more experienced jockeys to ride the least experienced horses. With the emphasis on results and sale value, this is critical to the business model.

    I am delighted to report the Anglos beat the Irish. Despite maestro Derek O’Connor taking the men’s challenge race for Ireland from Will Biddick and me, Gina Andrews kicked in the winner of the ladies’ challenge race, with Hannah Watson filling second for team GB ahead of Evanna McCutcheon.

    Combined, these results gave us a greater points haul than the home team, ensuring the silverware returned back to the UK.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 31 March 2016