ALTHOUGH now an 11-year-old, the Tom Mullins-trained Fosters Cross showed his younger rivals the way to go when he ran out a comfortable winner of the mile and four 68-75 handicap at Leopardstown.
Off the track since the Spring, the son of Dr Massini showed no signs of ring-rustiness as he came from off the pace to lead early in the straight and ran on strongly to beat the Jim Bolger-trained favourite Something Graceful by two and a half lengths.
A great servant to Mullins, Fosters Cross is a seven-time winner over jumps not to mention a couple on the level, including the big amateur handicap at Galway. The Western venue is again very much on the radar this year where he will have a choice of engagements including the Galway Plate.
This was the second leg of a double for jockey Joseph O’Brien who had earlier teamed up with his father Aidan to land the mile and two 57-82 handicap for three-year-olds with Great Explorer.
Having shed his maiden tag over a similar trip at Fairyhouse the previous week when sporting cheekpieces the Galileo colt was confidently expected to do the business again. Blinkers were applied this time and punters sent him to post an odds-on favourite in spite of the fact that he was shouldering top weight.
O’Brien threw down the gauntlet to the rest of the field as he sent Great Explorer into the lead. Minister Of Mayhem looked a serious challenger from the furlong marker but Great Explorer was not to be denied, pulling out enough the take the money by half a length.
Regarded by connections as being a tough hardy horse the winner could very well be on the Ballydoyle team for the Galway festival at the end of the month.
Jim Bolger kept up his red-hot streak when Feasta swooped late to touch off the favourite Late Rosebud in the seven furlong maiden. Making her debut the Lil’s Boy filly tracked the odds-on favourite Late Rosebud in the early stages, the latter came under strong pressure inside the final furlong and could find no more as Kevin Manning produced Feasta almost in the shadow of the post to hit the wire a neck to the good.
Ger Lyons, who began his career as a national hunt jockey with Jonjo O’Neill, has certainly made the grade as a flat trainer since relocating to his native land. He was on hand to greet Saxo Jack after the King’s Best gelding beat Al Destoor in the opening mile and two maiden.
Give a positive ride by Gary Carroll, Saxo Jack took the race by the scruff of the neck after a few furlongs when he kicked clear. Declan McDonagh and the John Oxx-trained Al Destoor gave chase from before the straight but were unable to reel in Saxo Jack, who had three and a half lengths to spare where it mattered.
Lyons revealed post-race that his charge is a lovely horse but immature. He needs a mile and a half so the best will not be seen from him until that happens.
Curraghbeg handler John Oxx has enduring a trying year so far. His horses have been under a cloud but a few placed animals during the meeting showed that maybe the worst is over and we can see the usual stream of winners emerging in the second half of the season.
Captain Cullen caused the biggest upset of the evening when getting up late to land the mile apprentice handicap under Colin Keane at odds of 16/1.
Without a win since his juvenile days the four-year-old has come down significantly in the handicap but was still hard to fancy. However, he failed to read the script as he came with a wet sail in the straight to collar Knights Templar in the dying strides and record a half length success.
In his post race remarks the winning trainer Gerry Keane revealed that the horse was sick all last year and has taken time to come right. On his day he is a good horse well capable of landing a decent handicap.
Jessica Harrington admitted to being mildly surprises by the success of Weather Watch in the mile and six furlong 55-85 handicap. Having opened his account at Tipperary over a mile and four at the second time of asking Weather Watch stepped up in trip and he saw it out well under Shane Foley to cope of the challenge of Night Invader by an extended five lengths.
Given the trainer’s history with national hunt horses it would come as no surprise if Weather Watch appears in a juvenile hurdle around Listowel time.