sport

Leader set for Thurles trip

Western Leader is being lined up for a trip to Thurles after securing his first victory in the best part of three years at Fairyhouse.

After breaking down badly when second in a Grade One novice hurdle at Aintree in the spring of 2010, some vets advised Shark Hanlon the gelding should be put down.

However, Western Leader's life was saved and although he was initially retired from racing, he made a shock return last winter.

He showed he retained plenty of enthusiasm with a couple of notable performances over hurdles and he made an emotional winning debut over fences on New Year's Day.

Hanlon said: "He's come out of the race super, there's not a bother on him.

"We were delighted with how he performed on the day. They thought he was a goner after Aintree and to come back and win a race is brilliant.

"Like Barry (Connell, owner) said to me after the race, if he doesn't win again, it doesn't matter. We've done what we wanted to do with him.

"We've had a lot of texts and e-mails about him the last couple of days and people really appreciate the horse, which is great.

"He's in great form and I think he'll improve a good bit for the run.

"The plan now is to go for a winner's race in Thurles on January 17.

"The problem for a horse like him is there are so few opportunities in Ireland.

"There is the race in Thurles and that is the only winner's race here for three months."