US trainer Keri Brion achieved her first Irish success on Sunday when winning the Jim Ryan Racecourse Services (Pro/Am) Irish National Hunt Flat Race at Cork Racecourse with 25/1 chance Scorpion’s Revenge.
The victory for the American handler was also a first track success for amateur jockey Daniel Nevin, who sported the colours of top American jumps owner Irvin Naylor.
“I was starting to doubt whether I’d get a winner” admitted a delighted and relieved Ms. Brion, before adding “I had bad racing luck and didn’t have time on my side but this is the ground they’ll all want. The ground came right and he’s been training well, and he ran some race today!”
Keri Brion has based herself in Ireland since 24 November 2020 when she arrived to oversee the training of what were then six Jonathan Sheppard-trained horses that were being aimed at a European jumps campaign.
When the Englishman surprisingly announced his retirement, former champion apprentice rider Brion took over the licence in her own right, having been assistant to Sheppard for twelve years.
The original team of six horses – Winston C, French Light, Clondaw Camp, Baltimore Bucko, Fancy Pance and Francois – were based at Baltimore Stables in County Wexford, the base of siblings, James and Ellen Doyle.
The Brion-Doyles relationship goes back almost two years, with the US woman having previously purchased a number of horses from them, a trend which has continued during her current Ireland stay.
Interestingly, today’s winner Scorpion’s Revenge was also sourced from the Doyle, with Keri Brion explaining:
“I sourced this horse for the Naylors in November to come back to America. James and Ellen Doyle had him at Baltimore Stables. He was unraced and I was in there riding out some of the unraced horses, and I thought he just looks like an American horse. He had the pedigree – Scorpion had been very good in America. The stallion stood out and the horse looks to be the whole package for me.”
The Pennsylvania-native admitted that he was just about ready to run “but we gave him the winter off as he was never going to like the winter ground in Ireland. We said if the ground got better we’d give him a run and finally, the weather played into my favour!”
Baltimore Stables from where Scorpion’s Revenge was purchased tweeted as follows after Brion’s Sunday victory:
“Delighted to see Keri Brion getting her first win on Irish soil today with Scorpion’s Revenge at Cork Racecourse with a Baltimore Stables graduate and with Keri Brion training out of Baltimore Stables. Congratulations to Dan Nevin and owners Irv and Diane Naylor.”
Twenty-year-old amateur jockey Dan Nevin from Gowran, County Kilkenny, was also winning on the racetrack for the first time, having ridden just three point-to-point winners in his career.
“To be fair to Dan (Nevin) he has worked him and gets on well with him,” Brion stated, “the owners were happy to give him a chance today, and the Naylors have been so good to me.”
The young jockey will head Stateside next week to ride some horses for Brion as the US jumps season begins.
“Our season is getting ready to start in America” says Keri, “and all the horses are going back to Saratoga to run for big money and the owners rightly want them home and freshened up.”
With her time in Ireland coming to an end next Saturday, April 10 2021, Keri Brion is delighted to have achieved a racecourse success in the Emerald Isle, having had come close on a number of occasions with French Light, Baltimore Bucko and Winston C.
Before her departure, however, she will have two more runners. French Light will compete in the Farmhouse Foods Novice Handicap Hurdle over 2 miles at Fairyhouse, Co Meath, on Easter Monday and The Mean Queen is likely to race at Wexford on Friday.
“I learned a lot but was just missing this win, admitted the American handler. “ I know exactly now what type of horses are needed and it is a high standard. French Light is a Grade 1 horse in America but runs in a novice handicap hurdle tomorrow at Fairyhouse so that tells you what you’re looking at.”
Asked if this experiment in basing horses in Ireland is likely to be repeated, Keri Brion happily says:
“I think we will come back – the owners have really enjoyed it and a few of them would love to come to the races.”
Photo: Courtesy of @corkracecourse