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Scarteen Hunt (the Blacks & Tans)

By Eamonn Murphy

The Scarteen Hunt (the Blacks & Tans) run a 'must-attend' point-to-point at Kilfeacle (Kilfeacle or Cill Feacla, the Church of Patrick's Tooth, legend tells us, is so called because St. Patrick is reputed to have lost a tooth as he passed through the area) and the 2012 renewal on Sunday, January 15th was another afternoon of enjoyable sport in County Tipperary.

Chairman of the point-to-point, Tom Russell explained: "We had a great meeting. It's a great track, we've been there for twelve years now. The farm is owned by John Heney and he's a great hunt supporter.

"It's a great track – it's testing – but some good horses have won there. First Lieutenant broke his maiden there. That good horse of Costellos, Back In Focus won the six-year-old maiden there last year.

"I'm the chairman of the point-to-point and my wife Hazel is the secretary. She does all the work – I just delegate."


Kilfeacle PTP
Quinlan beating Panther Claw - Jan 2012
(© Healy Racing Photos)
"Frankie Ward is the regional secretary and she takes the entries. She is brilliant – she makes our lives terribly easy. You touch base with Frankie and we just tick the boxes.

"Most of the entering is done on-line now through and some over the phone. Having a regional secretary has been a huge benefit. If Frankie sees a race not filling she can get the word out. She makes sure everyone knows the deadlines and everything like that."


"With the point-to-points now the whole organisation is professional. It's only right too. It's a serious game, there is a lot of money involved and a lot of people put a lot of effort into it. If you are a trainer and you bring your horse to a point-to-point meeting you expect it to be well run and everything to be right."


"It's a big plus having the same venue for a good number of years because everyone that's involved knows their job. You just work off your lists then. You ring fellas and they know what they are doing."


"You need to bring on a younger group then too. It's important from our point of view with regard to the hunting – for hunt members and volunteers, that you keep bringing on younger fellas. If you don't ask them they won't do it. They love to be involved."


"Though it creates a buzz locally we haven't got the population base around it. It's not like Dungarvan for example where you can walk out it. Tipperary town is four or five miles away and we get a decent crowd every year depending on the weather. If you get a fine day you get a good local crowd.

"We had a good dry day this year and we got a good crowd. It's not like it was six or seven years ago when you'd have a huge crowd. The money is not there.

"You make sure that you have the right fellas on the gates. If they see a local farmer coming through, over whose land we hunt, it's important that he doesn't have to put his hand in his pocket and that he's waved in. We hand out complimentary passes as well.

"Then you get fellas that get the passes and they won't use them. They insist on paying-in as they know it's for hunt funds."


"I haven't hunted myself for a couple of years. I used to do a lot of it – I'd say it's laziness on my behalf or maybe my bottle is gone!

"They hunt on Tuesday and Fridays or Tuesdays and Saturdays. Numbers are our problem, too many is what we have. You're so dependent on your farmers and there is a lot of work that goes into keeping the country open.

"There is a great bunch of lads there that go around canvassing farmers. That's important – you can only work your own hunt in my opinion. You can't talk about what other people do, you can only talk about what you do yourself.

"Kilfeacle would be on the border of our country. We used to hunt in Ballysimon. We go the whole way back nearly as far as Bulgaden (County Limerick). Elton (County Limerick as well) would be our furthest meet on the other side. Hospital and up to Ballylanders – it's good country."


"John Ferguson (Sheikh Mohammed's racing manager and making waves in the training ranks in recent times) used to be a joint master but not anymore. He was in that role for a couple of years.

"He hunted a good bit when he was a joint master. He'd be a friend of Chris Ryan and I'd say that's where the contact was. John was a great man to have around."


"Aidan Ryan is the Clerk of the Course and John Heney, the landowner received a presentation this year – a photograph of First Lieutenant winning.

"It isn't often that you have a Cheltenham winner running in your point-to-point. Having a subsequent Cheltenham winner breaking his maiden in your field was great for everyone involved.

"He (First Lieutenant) topped the sale in Fairyhouse the year before. He then won the Tattersalls-sponsored race with us.

"We were indebted to Mouse (Morris his trainer) and Gigginstown for running a sale-topper that cost quarter of a million in a race here for small money.

"It's great for us when you're going out looking for sponsorship afterwards. This year with the likes of Vic Venturi winning there too all adds to it.

"I'd be touching base with Aidan back in November. You can't do too much beforehand though as it's a working farm."


"We'd basically go in there on the Wednesday before the Sunday. The fences would arrive a day or two before that and we build our course and then it gets passed.

"Val O'Connell, who is a member of the hunt as well, is the Turf Club steward and it's a big benefit to us having him on board as well.

"We'd have maybe thirty volunteers there on the Wednesday building the course. Pat O'Connell does the fences. We build the course on the Wednesday and we try to have as little to do by the weekend but it all depends on the weather.

"There was one year there that we nearly had to build the course on the Saturday evening. We had a good run in this year.

"John Heney is great in that he likes to have the place organised. A couple of years ago we stoned an area where we could park trucks. The days of getting fellas to come back on a Monday to give you a hand (to tidy up) are gone.

"We try and have everything finished up that Sunday evening so that you don't have to go back again until next year.

"I left the field at quarter to five this year and had no reason to go back. That's great for the landowner and everyone involved. If you had eight or nine races you couldn't do it, we had just the six this year. We were surprised there wasn't more for the mares maiden – that would usually divide. Normally we'd have seven or eight races.

"We try and have enough tractors there and the minute the last race is over you have two teams going off taking up stakes and ropes and whatever. Every fella will give you half an hour. There are a whole rake of volunteers, they are too numerous to mention. If I start mentioning one I'd be here all day.

"I'm a great believer in team."


"We got a letter from the Turf Club complimenting how well run the point-to-point was and you can hand that out to all the fellas that gave a hand. You can show it to the sponsors too as they all like to be associated with something that is successful."


"You talk to the bookies and they will tell you that you can often have more money changing hands on a three runner open if the three of them are fancied, than you would have on a twenty runner maiden.

"Seamus Mulvaney is great – he comes every year. A couple of years ago the ring was small enough but we worked hard at getting it back again.

"Competition is great. People go into the 'ring' and with sixteen or seventeen bookies there they know they can have a bet."


"We had the new mobile medical unit there for the first time this year. It was great to have it there.

"No matter how well you organise the thing there is always a risk. Once the Turf Club arrive the first person they want to see is my safety officer.

"Then they go through their check-list with him and then the fence stewards. These are all very important areas of contact we have as amateurs with the Turf Club.

"In the weigh-tent – you have to be nearly professional in there.

"Safety is the biggest concern running a point-to-point. The Turf Club are great – they are professionals and they expect you to come up to the mark.

"The experience from years gone by is a big help."