PAT HEALY: In his latest blog Pat looks back at Josh Williamson’s first winner and ahead to a trip to Santa Anita this weekend for the Breeders’ Cup ….

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First winner for Josh Williamson

Josh Williamson rode the first winner of his career at Clonmel last Thursday aboard a grey horse called House Martin for Edward O’Grady. Josh is the son of brilliant former National Hunt jockey Stromin’ Norman Williamson and he is also my Godson!

The coincidence is just unbelievable. Norman rode his first winner at Clonmel in 1987, also aboard a grey horse and we all know the connection that Norman had with Edward O’Grady down the years – they had a fantastic relationship and Norman rode him numerous big race successes and Grade 1 winners.

We can’t forget Josh’s mum Janet Hyde too, who rode Cheltenham Festival winner Generosa to win her bumper in Galway in 1997. So, Josh has plenty of good breeding between dam and sire!

His first win has been coming for a while, he’s 17 now and he had his first ride when he was 16, nearly a year ago on St Stephen’s Day. It was fantastic to finally see him get over the line in front and I was delighted for him.

He rides out for Gordon Elliott in the mornings, and he keeps improving with every ride so he’s a name to watch out for in the next couple of years.

Keith Donoghue shines at Cheltenham

Cheltenham kick-started its National Hunt season last weekend and the jockey that stole the show was Keith Donoghue, or ‘Jacksy’ as he’s known, as he rode three winners for Gavin Cromwell.

We all know Jacksy is a fantastic horseman. If he was half a stone lighter, he would be troubling Paul Townend and Rachael Blackmore for the jockeys’ championship every year. Whether it’s a staying chaser or a juvenile hurdler, Jacksy has what even the majority of great jockeys don’t have and that is great hands. His idol was Paul Carberry (pictured below) and you can see the similarity at times. It’s a pleasure to watch him riding.

We wish Jacksy good health and look forward to seeing him riding this National Hunt season.

Weekend point-to-points

I was in Moira, County Down on Saturday and it was a tough day to be out with the weather, but fair play to the committee as the track was in great order.

The four-year-old maiden on the card was won by a horse called Handstands, who is by Getaway. Patrick Turley trained, and he was ridden by Declan Lavery. He’s now going to go to the sales.

The five-year-old maiden was won by a Flemensfirth gelding called Millford Hill, who is from the Wilson Dennison ‘hotel’ and is trained by his daughter Caroline McCaldin.

We rolled on to Sunday at Tattersalls, County Meath, where again we had heavy showers and the going was very testing.

There were two four-year-old maidens on the card, with the one for mares being won by Honky Tonk Highway – she’s by Milan and trained by Colin Bowe – and she’s now heading for the Tattersalls Cheltenham November Sale.

The geldings’ maiden was won by trainer Warren Ewing of Constitution Hill fame, with a horse called Saint Kristobal, who is by French stallion Jeu St Eloi. He’s also now sales bound.

Watch out for Dara McGill

We’re about a month into the point-to-point season now and I have to give a mention to jockey Dara McGill. He’s a County Derry-based jockey and is the son of point-to-point trainer Garry McGill. Garry played GAA football for Derry back in the day. Dara is a graduate of the pony racing scene and he is a name to watch out for.

Remembering two well-known racegoers

Bill Corrigan, who was a well-known face around the Kildare race meetings, passed away lately. Bill was a great character and he will be sadly missed by everyone around the Kildare area.

Well-known English racegoer, Walter Dunphy also passed away recently. For as long as I’ve been going racing in England, you could go to Epsom, Sandown, all the London tracks, and of course Cheltenham and you’d meet Walter. He was another great character and a great punter.

They will both be greatly missed and we pass on our condolences.

Shaquille retired

Shaquille has gone off to stud after a brilliant season, including winning at Royal Ascot and in the July Cup. He was a real success for the ‘smaller yard’ in racing – well done to Julie Camacho and her team.

Again, I would have liked to have seen him again next year, but we have to say connections know best. We wish him all the best at stud.

Breeders’ Cup

I’m heading off to Santa Anita for the Breeders’ Cup – my first at Santa Anita was nearly 20 years ago – this week and I’m looking forward to it as ever.

The Breeders’ Cup is always a fantastic meeting with brilliant racing, with the European horses, or, as I like to think the Irish, pitted against the Americans.

Aidan [O’Brien] and Ballydoyle are going to be well represented as usual. We had three Irish winners last year in Keeneland and hopefully we can repeat the dose this year.

If Auguste Rodin, Mostahdaf and King Of Steel all turn up in the Turf it’s going to be a brilliant spectacle.

Take Care

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