Christmas festival continues at Limerick with rare six-race programme

History nearly made as US-trained Baltimore Bucko finishes third on his Irish debut

The Christmas festival action continues at Limerick on Wednesday with a rare six-race programme rescheduled from Sunday.

The reduced card is due to the originally featured Grade 2 contest being run on Monday when won by Farouk d’Alene.

Henry De Bromhead sends a handful of runners including Atlantic Fairy, who lines up for a mares maiden hurdle. The form of her last effort when runner-up to Mister McShee at Cork got a major boost at Leopardstown on Sunday.

A repeat of that could be good enough to repel both Pont Aval, a bumper winner returning from a long lay-off, and Kilbree Warrior, whose form behind Ashdale Bob last time has also been boosted since.

De Bromhead’s Grady Hollow, a point to point winner in October, looks one to note in the bumper, although his hope for the veterans chase, Kavanagh’s Corner, could be foiled by last year’s winner Cappacurry Zak.

Enda Bolger’s Stake Wallace, fourth in the Cheltenham Foxhunters last season, looks a standout in the hunters chase.

Tuesday's Limerick action came close to a little slice of history as the US-trained Baltimore Bucko finished third on his Irish debut in the opening novice hurdle. No American-trained jumper has won a race in Ireland, but the first runner from a six-strong team of horses sent to be based in Ireland this winter by Jonathan Sheppard acquitted himself well.

A blunder at the final flight of the novice hurdle didn’t help Baltimore Bucko’s cause, but the 16-1 outsider stayed on well under jockey Ger Galligan to be a three-length third to No Grey Area’s.

Sheppard, the most successful jumps trainer in US racing history, stayed in the US, but his assistant Keri Brion was "thrilled" with the performance.

“I am absolutely thrilled Baltimore Bucko running a very game third at Limerick today as our first Irish runner,” she tweeted afterwards.

Sheppard, who is chasing a first winner in Europe, sent half a dozen horses to Ireland last month. They are based at the yard of point to point trainer James Doyle in Wexford. They include Winston C, a dual-Grade 1 winner in America, who could be aimed at the Cheltenham festival in March.

Sheppard's next runner in Ireland could be French Light, with reports in the US indicating the horse is likely to line up early in the new year at Cork or Clonmel.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column