Alphabet survives blunder to romp in

ROYAL ALPHABET, lucky to survive a blunder at the second, subsequently toyed with his rivals on the way to taking the Ballynonty Novice Hurdle at Thurles yesterday.

Having a first outing for almost seven months, Willie Mullins’ gelding stripped fit and well and could hardly have done his job any better.

Your Almost There landed in front at the third last, but David Casey was soon tracking the new leader on Royal Alphabet.

He eased his charge to the front between the last two flights and the imposing six-year-old lengthened away, hardly knowing he had a race.

“My heart was in my mouth when he made that mistake”, admitted Mullins. “He will be entered at Fairyhouse and Punchestown and I will be delighted if he runs in both places.”

Sea To Sky, trained by Mags Mullins for the Whitecats Syndicate, stayed on strongly for Keith Hadnett to land the Fethard Maiden Hurdle.

The Syndicate is made up of ten members, many of them well-known in the GAA world. Included are Kildare footballers, Willie McCreery, Glen Ryan and Martin Lynch and Kilkenny hurler, Charlie Carter. The plan to buy a horse was hatched at an All-Stars Banquet.

Sea To Sky edged ahead coming away from the second last and was always holding Mister Virginian on the flat.

Johnny Levins was seen to advantage when guiding the Charlie Swan trained Tisn’t Easy to win the Cashel Maiden Hurdle.

Gold Spear made a brave attempt from the front, but had nothing left when Levins delivered his challenge at the final flight.

“At last, she’s got her head in front”, exclaimed Swan. “She’s not top class, but is tough and will go chasing early next season.”

Brian Byrnes, who is attached to the Eric McNamara yard, rode his first winner over jumps when partnering 12-year-old Ballygowan Beauty in the Martinstown Opportunity Handicap Hurdle.

The 23-year-old did ride a winner on the flat in England, at Catterick, for John Quinn however.

Ballygowan Beauty was brought with a steady challenge by Byrnes to collar Shoot The Pigeon at the last, before going clear to score by two and a half lengths.

Backed from 12-1 to 8’s, he is trained by veteran handler, Tommy Walker, who quipped: “He’s as old as myself.”

Michael Halford ran five in the Rock Of Cashel Median Auction Maiden and hit the bull’s eye with one of them, 33-1 shot, Anlon.

The son of General Monash finished with a real flourish to grab Riverboatman, in front well over a furlong down, in the final strides.

It was a third success for rider, Rory Cleary, brother of Sean, so tragically killed following a fall at Galway last October. There was no ticket on the winner on the Tote.

Said Halford: “He was a backward horse last season, but at this time of year you just don’t know where you stand. Rory is a very cool rider and has a great future.”

The youngster took his career-tally to four when partnering Port Natal to victory in the Devils’ Bit Handicap, for a 271-1 double.

Fit from the all-weather in England, Port Naatal was brought with a sweeping late surge to cut down the flattering pair, Callas and Togher Castle.

Cleary is 16 years-of-age and was champion pony rider five years in-a-row.

Arbelina, fit from hurdling, streaked away with the Nenagh Handicap, after Brian Hughes had sent her for glory approaching the home turn.

The Bumper went to Santavino, well handled by the capable Colin Motherway giving trainer, Mick Cotter, a first winner.

Cotter, who is from Midleton, but trains at Dungourney, has eight horses in his care and has held a licence for five years. The Be My Native mare made just about all, finding plenty for pressure in the straight, as a wall of horses tried to get on terms.

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