The young rider has enjoyed tremendous success in recent weeks, highlighted by his victory on Killultagh Vic in Cheltenham’s Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle.
And boosted by the news that he’ll ride last year’s winner and top-weight Stuccodor in the Tote-sponsored Irish Lincoln at the Curragh on Sunday, he gave Thunder Zone an enterprising ride to make all in yesterday’s feature, the four-year-old resisting the challenge of odds-on favourite Sadler’s Risk before fluffing the final flight and forging clear to triumph by seven lengths.
Thunder Zone is trained for Gigginstown House Stud by Gordon Elliott, who stated: “Things didn’t work out for him in Cheltenham (in the ‘Fred Winter’) — he was very wide all the way and would have been as well off at home in his stable.
“He loved that soft ground today. And Luke used his head and his initiative on him. We’ll keep him entered-up until the ground dries out and try to find something else for him. He doesn’t want the ground too quick.”
Henry de Bromhead saddled the strapping five-year-old Sizing Killarney, in the Potts colours, to make a successful debut in the opening CIT Horse Racing Maiden Hurdle, Jonathan Burke’s mount keeping well-backed favourite Crystal Pearl at bay by three-quarters of a length.
The trainer said: “It isn’t the cleverest thing to do, winning a maiden hurdle at this time of year. But this fellow will be going chasing. He’s an exciting horse and might have one more run over hurdles, maybe in Punchestown.
“At home, he looks a slow horse, but he stays really well. And chasing will be his game.”
Having his first run since joining Willie Mullins, having shown little or nothing since finishing second in a point-to-point in 2010, Roumanian was sent off a red-hot 11/8 favourite for the Stay Classy Handicap Hurdle and justified the support, but only just.
Ridden with extreme confidence by Danny Mullins, the nine-year-old, formerly with Michael McDonagh, had to battle hard on the run-on to foil Cloudy Morning by a short-head.
Roumanian carries the colours of Patrick Mullins, who quipped: “Danny disobeyed my instructions, but gave the horse a fantastic ride.”
He said: “The reason we bought the horse was that, as well as winning a point-to-point, he’s a half-brother to a Grade One in France called Grivette, that beat Hurricane Fly and Quevega.”
Odds-on favourite One Cool Princess, winner of her bumper on this track last April, made all to win the CITSU Maiden Hurdle for Brian O’Connell and local trainer John Joe Walsh.
The Old Vic mare looked set for a clear-cut victory at the second last but tired on the run-in as Cairde Aris stayed on strongly to get within three-quarters of a length of the 8/11 shot, the pair finishing massive 54 lengths clear of the third.
The Eamonn O’Connell-trained Captainofthefleet followed-up a recent win in Thurles when defying top-weight in the three-mile Don’t Step On The Crest Handicap Hurdle.
The eight-year-old, a third winner for trainer’s son Eoin, got the better of the Ruby Walsh-ridden Your Busy by a half-length and, if the ground stays soft, might head to Punchestown, for another handicap hurdle, or Clonmel (for the Tipperary Cup).
A promising second to Ice Cold Soul on his racecourse debut, dual point-to-point winner Mall Dini justified 7/4 favouritism in the bumper, denying Gigginstown and Gordon Elliott a double with Dallas Cowboy.
Trained by Pat Kelly for Philip Reynolds, Mall Dini stayed on dourly for Liz Lalor to triumph by a half-length, prompting his rider to comment: “He’s a lovely, honest horse and just kept galloping.”
And Katie Walsh gave King Blue, trained by her husband Ross O’Sullivan, a perfectly-judged ride to land the Fegentri World Championship Handicap Hurdle in convincing style from top-weight Dactik.