Ireland took out the 31st annual Australia v Ireland Jumps Challenge 55-45, with Irish rising star Donagh Meyler the dominant rider, winning all three races over the two meetings.
The series kicked off with Meyler recording a win on Grant Young’s Celtic Prince in a welcome return to form in the Highweight at Murray Bridge on Wednesday 30 August, ahead of Presumption (Martin Kelly) and Hoylake (Jarod Lynch). Visiting Irish rider Rachael Blackmore finished fourth on another of Young’s charges, Spur on Gold.
Moving to Morphettville on Saturday 2 September for the jumping races, good competitive fields and some compelling racing provided an outstanding end to the 2017 SA jumps racing season, in front of one of the biggest crowds seen at the track this winter.
Donagh Meyler again led the way in the Irish Steeplechase aboard Eric Musgrove’s Pentomatic, in a cracking finish where the 7yo held off Patrick Payne’s Ours, ridden by Martin Kelly, with Clayton Douglas finishing in third aboard Steven Pateman’s emerging chaser Surging Wave.
Kelly and Ours looked like they’d established a winning lead when they broke for home about 400m out, but Meyler went after them and the pair came to the last neck and neck. Pentomatic jumped it the better and was able to gain a half a length before Ours fought back gamely, but Meyler held on and was able to finish a couple of lengths clear for Pentomatic’s first win over fences.
In the Irish Hurdle, Meyler was aboard the favourite, the Hayes & Dabernig trained Dane Hussler, and the bookies got this one right, with the 6yo taking out its second hurdle in succession with a strong finish ahead of an impressive Allez Tara in its jumping debut, ridden by Clayton Douglas and trained by Niki O’Shea & Ashton Downing. The consistent jumper Who Says I’m Ready, trained by Terry & Karina O’Sullivan, finished third for Richard Cully.
Allez Tara led for much of the race, starting well and leading the field past the judge for the first time, with Mr One Eleven tracking him much of the way, until about 600m from home when Douglas looked as though he might have been able to establish a winning break. However, Dane Hussler, which had been ridden patiently by Meyler towards the back of the field, started to surge about 400m out, and the two jumped the last on even terms. However, Dane Hussler cleared it the better and was able to pull away from a game Allez Tara, with a strong-finishing Who Says I’m Ready able to edge out They Call Me Sven to finish in third.
As always, the Australia v Ireland Jumps Challenge provided a rousing end to what has been a highly successful 2017 jumps racing season in South Australia, and the big crowds demonstrated yet again the continued strong support there is for jump racing in Adelaide.