The Premier hunt is one of the youngest in the country but has certainly made its mark since being formed in 1995.
By Alan Magee
Conny O'Dwyer, John Malone, Tom O'Brien and Donal Boyle, a leading figure in the Irish Masters of Harriers Association (IMHA), were some of the founding figures in the "Premier". The current membership of 40 has "quite a lot of young people" according to secretary Michael Moore, and includes local trainer Thomond O'Mara.
The annual Horse And Jockey point-to-point, which takes place on the land of John O'Keeffe, will be run for the tenth time on Sunday March 13 and has thankfully survived anything the weather gods can throw in that time. Organisers and racegoers are well catered for at Tom Egan's nearby four star Horse And Jockey hostelry, and even future Gold Cup winners have been spotted at the fixture.
"I get great sport out of reminding Mouse Morris that War Of Attrition was beaten here," chuckles Moore. "To be honest, he had the race at his mercy when falling at the last. Chablais is another smart one that won here last year, and he's now a big prospect with Nicky Henderson."
The hunt, which covers quite a bit of the south Co.Tipperary region, is very conscious of contributing back to society and has carried out many successful fund-raising efforts as Moore explained. "We had a sponsored ride last October which raised funds for spinal injuries, and the injured jockeys fund and cancer research are also charities we like to support."
The current tough economic times have certainly made it more difficult. Sunday's meeting has sponsors for all races but advertising income is harder to come by. "We are holding a hunter trial on Easter Monday at Maher's hunter trial course in Kedrah near Cahir. It is supposed to be a good money-spinner," added Moore.
Volunteers are an integral part of any successful organisation but numbers in the Premier Harriers mean the workload falls on a small number of people to ensure events run smoothly. Chairman Gerry O'Donnell is well assisted by Moore, secretary of both the hunt and point-to-point meeting, while other important members of the team include Frankie Ward, William Carrigan and Caroline Ryan.
The left-handed circuit of about ten furlongs at Horse And Jockey is generally regarded as a good, fair point-to-point track and there are plans afoot to create an additional banks course. "We are planning to have a two day meeting some time down the road, and to put in a banks course. Originally we were hoping to have it ready for our tenth anniversary next year but I'm afraid that won't happen," said Moore.
(C) Healy Racing Andy Slattery is a trainer to pay particular note of at Horse And Jockey, with the Confined Maiden for Novice Riders made virtually his own. The Killenaule handler won the race on five successive occasions, and was only denied making it six-in-a-row last year by a shorthead.
"I will have two runners in the Confined race this year, and Italian Legace should have a good chance. He was third to For Non Stop at Horse And Jockey two years ago, and that winner is now favourite for the Coral Cup at Cheltenham," said Slattery of the Michael Lowry-owned gelding. "He's had a few problems since but is hopefully over them now."Slattery, who also sponsors a race at the point-to-point, is unable to fit in hunting with the Premier due to a busy work schedule but the family is still represented through his daughters and niece.