Cross far from a back number

What a terrific servant the venerable Fosters Cross has been to connections.

In less than two weeks he will turn 13 years-of-age, but at Thurles yesterday Fosters Cross showed he is far from a back number when landing the Horse And Jockey Hotel Handicap Hurdle.

In the process he gave 18 year-old David Mullins his first winner as a professional, on only his second ride.

Mullins’ father, Tom, trains Fosters Cross, and he is owned by retired Cork businessman, Pat O’Donovan.

Mullins junior, who enjoyed 12 successes as an amateur, produced the winner at the final flight and Fosters Cross did the rest, easing away from Mrs Mac Veale on the run in.

“He’s brilliant and the perfect one to start off on as a pro’’, commented the rider.

Mullins senior said: “I am thrilled to give him his first winner as a pro. The horse will probably pull out again at Leopardstown, with David riding.’’

Owner O’Donovan played rugby for Cork Con and propped for Munster for nine years. He also spent 13 years sailing for Ireland.

Willie Mullins’ Lyrical Theatre, winner of three bumpers, was always a short price to land the Gift Horse Gallery Horse And Jockey Hotel Mares’ Maiden Hurdle.

She did get home in front, but not before giving those brave enough to trade at tight odds their fair share of worries.

Her jumping was sketchy, she was lucky to get away with a blunder five out, and went to the last flight some three lengths adrift of the modest Annagh Haven.

But Lyrical Theatre did fly the obstacle and gradually closed down the leader to get up close home and score by a length. Said Mullins: “I suppose she wasn’t impressive, I was probably in too much of a hurry to start her off over jumps. She will go down the novice route now.’’

Mullins completed a short-priced double when the former winning pointer, Pylonthepressure, made a cracking start on the racecourse in the Bumper.

Partnered by his son, Patrick, the son of Darsi, toyed with the opposition and hardly left second gear.

“He acted well on that ground and, I think, will act on much better ground as well’’, said Mullins senior. “He will run again, with a view to Cheltenham.’’

Liz Doyle’s Kauto Grand Mogol, so disappointing at Navan previously, got back on track by taking the Exit 6 To The Horse And Jockey Rated Novice Hurdle.

He cruised through the contest for Brian O’Connell and this was over once asked to go and win his race heading to two out.

Said Doyle: “I was very hopeful heading to Navan but he never jumped or travelled. He was back to doing everything he should be doing today and I will give him another chance in Graded company.’’

The mildly frustrating Wrath Of Titans got off the mark over flights with a vengeance when running away with the INH Stallion Owners’ EBF Maiden Hurdle.

Ridden by Bryan Cooper, on his first day back from suspension, Sandra Hughes’ charge swept away in the straight to easily beat Buck Dancing.

Said Hughes: “That was good, he has improved and the cheek-pieces helped him to concentrate. ‘’

Punters got away on the right note when the Michael McDonagh-trained Black Zero followed up his Gowran Park success by landing the Martinstown Opportunity Handicap Chase.

Partnered with typical confidence by Jonathan Burke, the winner powered through to lead at the last and beat the front-running Killtilane Rose.

“He’s in at Limerick on St Stephen’s Day and could go there’’, reported McDonagh.

Unlucky horse of the contest was Ballyadam Approach, returning from a long absence, who was holding every chance when falling two out. The Liam Casey-trained Betterthanalright got into the Molony Cup Handicap Chase as first reserve and proceeded to do the business.

Ridden by Kevin Sexton, the 12-1 shot made every yard of the running and market leader, Its The Ice I Like, was never going to get to grips with him.

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