Top amateur riders Derek O'Connor and Jamie Codd have been named in the Ireland team for the Bicester Office Park Anglo-Irish Point-to-Point Challenge at Kingston Blount in Oxfordshire on Friday, May 26.
Eleven-time champion O'Connor is the sport's winning-most jockey in Ireland with more than 1,100 winners. He has also struck three times at the Cheltenham Festival, most recently on Minella Rocco in the 2016 National Hunt Chase.
Codd, the reigning champion, has clocked up more than 820 Point-to-Point victories in his homeland. He is a seven-time winner at the Festival, including a double this year aboard Cause Of Causes, on whom he went on to finish second on in the Randox Health Grand National, and Fayonagh.
They join Barry O'Neill, this season's leading rider in Ireland, and Noel McParlan in the men's team, with the side selected based on the top four places in the championship.
O'Neill is no stranger to success on British shores, having partnered the Warren Greatrex-trained Paint The Clouds to victory in the Stratford Champion Hunters' Chase last May.
McParlan will be making his debut in the challenge, but has been one of the leading riders in the Emerald Isle for a number of years, and is on course to be crowned northern champion for a third time. He has also impressed at Cheltenham, finishing second on Missed Approach in the National Hunt Chase last month.
The four-mile race was won by Lisa O'Neill on Tiger Roll, and she features in Ireland's ladies' team, having also won the Kerry National at Listowel in September aboard Wrath Of Titans.
The line-up is completed by Shauna Larkin, Liz Lalor and Maxine O'Sullivan. Larkin, a newcomer to the challenge, leads the way in the lady riders' table, thanks largely due to a very productive campaign aboard Rosc Catha, a horse owned and trained by her family. Lalor is a five-time ladies' champion, while O'Sullivan has captured the title twice.
Richard Pugh, of P2P.ie, said: "The Anglo-Irish Challenge has really become a very popular event on both sides of the Irish Sea in what has been a very short time since its inception.
"We have a very strong Irish team heading over to Kingston Blount this year, and it is great that it is another new venue for the event to visit."
Meeting chairman Rodney Mann commented: "It is really good to see the top Point-to-Point amateurs in Ireland coming over and it will be a pleasure to welcome them to Kingston Blount. "We expect to see some very competitive racing."
The Great Britain team is due to be named early next month, with the top three men and ladies in the national standings earning selection plus one wildcard for each gender, with the aim of providing an opportunity for riders from all over the country.
After the Easter meetings, Will Biddick is clear at the top of the men's table with 29 winners followed by Evan David (20), Alex Edwards (19), John Dawson (18), Jack Andrews (17) and Darren Edwards (16).
Gina Andrews is the leading lady on 16 winners, with Bryony Frost (9), Claire Hardwick (8), Leanda Tickle (7) and Tabitha Worsley (6) heading the chasing pack.
ANGLO-IRISH CHALLENGE RACE PROGRAMME
Friday, May 26, 2017
4.00 Men's Open (sponsored by Betfair)
4.35 Anglo-Irish Club Members Conditions Race for Gentlemen Riders (sponsored by Goffs UK)
5.10 Anglo-Irish Ladies Open (sponsored by Bicester Office Park)
5.45 Anglo-Irish Four, Five & Six-Year-Olds Maiden Race for Gentlemen Riders (sponsored by Tattersalls Ireland)
6.20 Anglo-Irish Intermediate Race for Lady Riders (sponsored by Connolly's Red Mills)
7.05 The Kingston Blount Racing Club Members Conditions Race for Novice Riders
ANGLO-IRISH CHALLENGE BACKGROUND
This will be the fifth year the challenge has taken place with Great Britain having won on the previous four occasions.
Britain took the inaugural contest in 2013 at Ratoath in County Meath, before successfully defending their crown at Fairyhouse the following year.
A hat-trick of wins was completed when the jockeys' challenge came to these shores for the first time in 2015 at Chaddesley Corbett in Worcestershire.
And Britain made it a four-timer at Inch, near Tallow, in County Cork, last year.
The riders will compete in four races - two for men and two for women - twice the number of previous years.
As well as the four races in the Anglo-Irish Challenge there will be two supporting contests, with a 4pm start.
With Kingston Blount also hosting the traditional Berks & Bucks And Staff College & RMAS Draghounds meeting on Sunday, May 28, it promises to be a busy weekend for the popular Oxfordshire track.
KINGSTON BLOUNT POINT-TO-POINT RACECOURSE
Kingston Blount Racecourse was founded in 1971 and now stages four Point-to-Point meetings each season - with that figure increased to five this term with the Anglo-Irish Challenge. It is an undulating course, with a steep climb after the 5th and the 13th fences in three-mile races and a downhill run before the 6th and 14th fences. It is very well cared for with watering available and the ground is rarely firm, even at later meetings. Car parking is good, with a downhill exit if wet. There is good viewing from the slope above the finish.
The course is located at Kingston Grove, Kingston Blount OX39 4SG, approximately eight miles NW of High Wycombe and well signposted off the B4009 towards Chinnor, leaving the M40 at J6. For safety reasons, we do not advise leaving the M40 at J5 as the descent down Kingston Hill is both narrow and steep. For the same reason, please do not try to park on Kingston Hill.
For further information, please contact Kingston Blount Anglo-Irish Challenge media liaison officer Russell Smith 07866 953987 Email: [email protected]