At the Quakerstown Point To Point launch at the Inn At Dromoland is Aisling Wixted, Jennifer Lynch and Susanne O’Brien *Photo by Martin Connolly
IN RECENT years, point to point has become the training ground for national hunt racing. One doesn’t have to look far for evidence of this, with our own Derek O’Connor a record-breaking legend on the curcuit.
O’Connor is an ambassador for the Quakerstown Point To Point, which takes place on Easter Sunday every year. Hosted by the Co Clare Hunt, this marks the seventh year the event will take place in Quakerstown, against the backdrop of the glorious Burren.
With 2,000 people expected in Boston this Sunday, one could be forgiven for overlooking the hard work put in by the Clare Hunt committee to bring the event to its current guise, as Paul O’Neill, Point to Point secretary Secretary, tells The Clare Echo.
Paul has been involved in running the point to points for 20-plus years, and just ahead of the society’s biggest event of the year he says it wasn’t always the way.
“Quakerstown would be the biggest event that we would run every year,” says Mr O’Neill. “Point to point had been on a downward spiral but we put a lot of effort into different activities which is boosting the crowds for us hugely and provides great entertainment,” says Paul, adding its obvious benefit to the local economy.
“Going back, it had gone to a point where it was just solely six races on the day but people weren’t coming, families weren’t bringing their children because there was nothing to do for them so we embarked on changing that to make it a more family orientated day.”
With that in mind, a festival atmosphere has been created for this Sunday’s event. Face painting, pony rides and a bouncy castle will keep the kids entertained, while a heated marquee, the ‘Connolly’s RED MILLS Pavilion’ will allow patrons to enjoy all the thrills of Point to Point racing with added comfort, refreshments, live racing from Fairyhouse. This year it will also feature a Jive dancing session with Tom Jive, which will encourage people to show off their dancing skills and win some fantastic spot prizes.
There are also a number of competitions to be presided over by the guest judges, Mandy Maher of Catwalk Modelling agency; Mary Lee, model and Chez Lee Beauty; and local milliner Margaret O’Connor who happens to be a Tubber native.
With great prizes on offer, competitions include appropriately dressed lady and man, a bonny baby contest and a dog show. For the browsers, there will be a pavilion with about a dozen local enterprises displaying and selling local produce along with a food stall.
Speaking about the dancing element of the day, Paul continues, “It has nothing to do with racing, but jiving has been big in the county and surrounding counties so we’re having jiving in the heated marquee. So it’s just pushing the boat out in things like that to make it more ameniable for families and people to go to it.”
Paul also commended all sponsors of the event along with main sponsors Connolly’s RED MILLS, the committee and club members along with people and businesses in the locality for their support of the event, which continues to grow in popularity.
“The organising, we would do all of but on the day we would have a good lot of local support as well to help out with various aspects of it – that would be driven primarily by Gerry Lee and John and Jack Neylon. They really round the troops up there.
“We would be hoping that between parents and children we would be someplace in the region of 2,000 people at the event.”
At the event in Bellharbour, a race was ran in aid of breastcancer where €10,040 was donated to breast cancer research. And while there are six official races on the card this Sunday, the day will be finished with a pony race for local members of the hunt.
However Paul admits, “Horse racing is the main event,” adding that the continued support of jockey Derek O’Connor (who will be saddling up) has been “hugely” beneficial to the Quakerstown Point To Point. “With all the associations he has with different trainers he would be always highlighting the efficiency of the Clare point to points and the way they’re run, which is crucial.”
€10 admittance per person at the gate and children go free. All activities once inside are free of cost.