Danny Mullins must have felt like someone who had just been let out of jail after partnering The Tullow Tank to success in a maiden hurdle at Naas last Saturday.
The Tullow Tank turned what looked set to be ignominious defeat into glorious victory in a manner that only a really decent sort could and you can hardly wait to see him in action again.
It is never clever to be getting overly carried away when a horse has just won a maiden — such beasties are a dime a dozen — but this was different.
The five-year-old, who is called after Irish rugby international Sean O’Brien, just shapes like an exciting talent and is clearly one for the future.
He was lucky to survive a mistake four out and then was locked away for much of the straight, with absolutely nowhere to go.
Mullins had to switch him off the rails and outside four horses, with real estate rapidly running out.
By now the hot pot, Turnandgo, beautifully handled by Davy Russell between the last two flights to keep The Tullow Tank in the dark, had begun to stretch away.
Mullins finally managed to extricate The Tullow Tank and then set off on what looked a hopeless pursuit.
But once he saw daylight, Philip Fenton’s imposing charge literally exploded, got to Turnandgo in a matter of strides and was actually a comfortable length and a half clear at the line.
It brought to mind a story related by former trainer Ted Curtin, to a couple of us on a night out at Killarney many years ago.
Curtin’s first jockey at the time was the Australian, Kevin Moses, and the pair combined one day at the old Dundalk, long before it became an all-weather.
Anyway, Curtin thought this particular horse was a certainty, but up the straight Moses got him into more pockets than Fagin.
Literally everywhere he went Moses found his way blocked, but did eventually manage some sort of a clear run and got up on the line to squeeze home by a short head.
Back to the winner’s enclosure and, on dismounting, Moses casually turned to Curtin and muttered the immortal words: “never a doubt boss”. I wonder if young Mullins was moved to offer a similar assessment?
The Tullow Tank could now head for the Grade 1 Royal Bond at Fairyhouse on December 1 and that will be fascinating, given he is expected to even more effective travelling right-handed.
That Naas card was most interesting and informative and it will be a surprise should it fail to throw up plenty of winners in the coming weeks.
Noel Meade’s Road To Riches, for instance, was very good on his first run of the season, and his first over fences, when taking the beginners chase.
You’d have to think that the two horses he beat into second and third respectively, Foxrock and Operating, are certain to do the business, sooner rather than later.
There was a lot to like especially about Ted Walsh’s Foxrock. He mostly jumped really well and the way he came up the hill, at the end of an inadequate two miles and three, was very promising.
History has taught us that juvenile hurdlers from the previous season are always on th e back foot for their second, but there is a good chance that Willie Mullins’ Diakali may well more than hold his own.
He gave the smart Jessica Harrington-trained Mr Fiftyone 11lbs and a thrashing over two miles at Naas and all the evidence is that he will improve when again stepped up in trip.
Prior to Naas, he had been last seen at Auteuil in early June when taking a Grade 1, over just short of two and a half miles, by seven lengths from Paul Nicholls’ Ptit Zig. The same Ptit Zig arrived at Auteuil last Sunday and landed a Grade 1.
I’d imagine Tony Martin engaged in some head scratching in the wake of Flemenstar’s winning debut for the stable at Navan on Sunday.
Flemenstar eventually beat Days Hotel, who was getting 2lbs but is rated 16lbs behind him, by a length and a quarter and the overwhelming feeling was that this was very, very disappointing.
His jumping technique was bordering on the ridiculous. Flemenstar jumped many of the obstacles as if he was going across a bungalow rather than a fence.
The amount of energy he expended by clearing the fences with feet to spare had to take its toll and it was no surprise when he tired somewhat in the straight. It is as old a cliché as you can get, but the jury really is out with him, for the time being at least.
The other major disappointment at Navan had to be the display of Very Wood, beaten a length and a half by Minella Foru in a Grade 3 hurdle.
He went there as a possible star of the future, but jumped mad right at most of the flights and it was a miracle was able to put it up to the winner. I know Noel Meade was blaming himself afterwards, saying he would never make the running again, but you just hate to see a horse behaving like that.
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