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Barry Connell ends O'Regan retainer as he starts search for star 7lb claimer

Barry Connell and Denis O'Regan enjoyed Cheltenham Festival success together with Tully East
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Leading owner Barry Connell is on the lookout for a 7lb claimer after terminating his formal association with multiple Grade 1-winning rider Denis O'Regan.

Connell, whose yellow and navy silks are a familiar sight in Irish jumping, says he will continue to deploy O'Regan on a casual basis but a tactical decision has been made to use more claiming riders in a bid to improve results.

O'Regan was a third retained rider in just over five years for Connell, who purchased the ill-fated Our Conor following his Triumph Hurdle victory in 2013, with Danny Mullins holding the position in January of that year before Adrian Heskin took over in October 2014.

O'Regan, who partnered Connell's Tully East to Cheltenham Festival success in last year's Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase, took over from Heskin in April 2016.

"We had a formal arrangement with Denis that expired recently," Connell told the Racing Post. "He's still going to be riding for us but it now leaves us a little more flexible to use a few claimers when we need to. That's really the lie of the land. It would just be a bit of a help if we could get a good 7lb claimer."

He added: "There's been no falling out whatsoever and we've told Denis there will be plenty of rides there. He's due to ride one for us at the weekend, Product Of Love at Killarney, as long as the weights go up."

Denis O'Regan after winning the Galway Blazers aboard Snugsborough Benny

Last season was O'Regan's his most fruitful since returning to Ireland last term, more than doubling the previous campaign's tally of 13 successes when partnering 27 winners.

The 36-year-old, recognised as one of the most talented riders in the sport, has been in fine form of late, enjoying lucrative summer wins aboard Arctic Fire and Snugsborough Benny.

However, he has not ridden for Connell since August 11 when partnering Templemore Dream in a Kilbeggan handicap chase. On the same card, he rode for both Willie Mullins and the Gordon Elliott/Gigginstown axis.

"I can confirm that I will no longer be riding as Barry Connell's main jockey for the 2018-2019 season," O'Regan said. "I will be forever grateful for the opportunity that Barry gave me to return home after a decade in England and I have settled in well since coming back."

He added: "We were fortunate enough to have a Cheltenham Festival winner together with Tully East and I don't think I left anything behind during our time together. I wish Barry every success in the future and hope to ride in his colours again, and I look forward to exploring other opportunities now as well."

Barry Connell: "There's been no falling out whatsoever and we've told Denis there will be plenty of rides there"

At Killarney on Thursday, Connell declared two runners (one now a non-runner) in the beginners' chase, with Roger Loughran and 7lb claimer Danny Hand booked to ride, while O'Regan will partner Henry de Bromhead's Gigginstown-owned Lion In His Heart.

Connell has invested heavily in recent years but has not enjoyed Grade 1 success since landing the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle with Martello Tower in 2015, gradually streamlining his team to be trained solely by Alan Fleming, having previously spread his string across a number of trainers in Ireland and Britain.

Tully East (yellow) heads for victory in the Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival

Tully East disappointed when fancied for the Galway Plate this month and Connell said: "He's on a little bit of a break. He just scoped with a bit of mucus in him after the race and I'd say that's why he ran a bit flat. He needs goodish ground and we're biding our time with him."


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We were fortunate enough to have a Cheltenham Festival winner with Tully East and I don't think I left anything behind during our time together
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