WESTERN LEADER stamped himself as one of the most exciting young horses in the country with a breathtaking display to land the Grade 2 Michael Purcell Memorial Novice Hurdle at Thurles yesterday.
Trained by John Hanlon for Barry Connell, the imposing six-year-old was beautifully handled by Conor O’Farrell.
He made just about all of the running with Premier Victory the only one who was able to stay with him for much of the journey.
Premier Victory did join issue over three out, but once O’Farrell asked for an effort the response was immediate.
Western Leader quickly surged away, powering across the last two flights to score unextended by 12 lengths.
Said Hanlon: “That was great and is our third Grade 2 in six weeks. He will now go to Aintree for a race over two and a half or three miles.
“This horse will handle any ground, but loves soft, and will be be sent chasing next season.
“It’s a great honour for me to win this race, because when I was in cattle Michael Purcell was very good to me.”
Hanlon completed a double when Misala dug deep for Davy Russell to win the Killinan Maiden Hurdle.
Good Time Donie landed in front three out, but the winner battled back to get there close home and win by a neck.
“Davy gave him a great ride”, said Hanlon. “I only have him six or seven weeks and he is going to be a chaser. He will have a break now and come back for Punchestown.”
Jimmy Mangan continued his fine run when Gold Cygnet proved far too good for Siberian Tiger - 6-4 to 10-11 - in the Holy Cross Maiden Hurdle.
“It’s about time he rode a winner for me”, quipped Mangan. His son, Patrick, was in the saddle and this was the first occasion he did the business for his father since turning professional.
Gold Cygnet made every yard of the running and Siberian Tiger, whose resolution has been questioned in the past, was never going to close him down in the straight.
Continued Mangan senior: “He’s a half-brother to Wind Instrument, who won in England last week, and is a chaser in the making. He will have one more run over hurdles and then go out on grass.”
Market-leader Ad Idem strolled to success for Andrew McNamara in the Cashel Maiden Hurdle.
McNamara was in no hurry, but once he asked Pauline Gavin’s charge to ease ahead between the last two flights the outcome was never in doubt.
“He will now head to Navan on March 14 and then onto Fairyhouse”, reported Gavin. “I’m really looking forward to him going over fences in the autumn.”
McNamara’s brother, Robbie, was again seen to advantage when driving newcomer, Dynamic Approach, to land the Ladbrokes’ Cheltenham Series Bumper.
It was a first win for trainer, Eddie Hales, since May 15, 2008.
McNamara committed the Milan gelding well before the home turn and Dynamic Approach fought back strongly, after being headed inside the furlong pole by Under The Arch.
Remarked Hales: “I’m very happy with that and have good four-year-olds this year. He is a horse for next season.”
Emmet Mullins has been enjoying a decent run and was again among the winners when partnering Rating Queen to take the Littleton Handicap Hurdle by ten lengths.
Always prominent, she kicked approaching the straight, prompting trainer, Daniel Miley, to report: “She’s a mud-lover, who will go chasing next season.”
Red Basil, off the track since August of 2008, was far from unfancied in the ring for the Tipperary Lady Riders’ Handicap Hurdle and the confidence was justified.
This was an excellent training performance on the part of Jim Nash and, in Katie Walsh, had one of the best female pilots in the business on his side.
Red Basil actually went off favourite, 4-1 from 6’s, and found loads for Walsh pressure to easily hold Mon Champion.
Bill Harney’s Bubbly Bruce redeemed the promise of his second to Frawley at Leopardstown when taking the Rockview Bumper by seven lengths.
He was in front fully four furlongs out and kept up the gallop to beat Willie Mullins’ first-timer, and favourite, Octavin.
Bubbly Bruce was powerfully handled by Damien Skehan, who comes from Thurles and was riding his first winner on the track at 27 years-of-age.
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