THE winter racing season started at Thurles on Thursday, but not in the way you might have expected. The Co Tipperary venue had not staged flat racing since March 29th, 2007. That day the card contained eight races, with five run under National Hunt rules (including a bumper) and the first three races run on the flat.

The Aga Khan-owned and bred Shabahar won the opening maiden over a mile for trainer John Oxx, with Fran Berry in the saddle. The champion jockey of 2006, Declan McDonagh was on the runner-up but half an hour later he was in the winners’ circle after the James Leavy-trained, Ann Donnelly-owned Volcan Magique obliged. The third flat race, all of which were run over the same trip, was won by Patrick Ryan’s Max Scal, a 20/1 shot trained by John O’Shea and giving young Craig Allen his second win in the saddle.