Champion mare Longhouse Music met with defeat on her return to competitive action, as she bids to become the first horse to defend the champion point-to-point horse title.
However, that title defence did enjoy the perfect start when her colours were lowered by the returning Holycross Lito in the Glenpatrick Horseboxes Mares’ Open at Loughanmore on Saturday.
Sam Curling’s charge, a record breaking 13-time winner last season, saw a five-run unbeaten streak come to an end in the four-runner contest.
The 10-year-old was due to be ridden by Derek O’Connor, however the former champion was unable to take up any of his other intended mounts at the East Antrim fixture, after being stood down following a heavy fall from the newcomer For The Cause in division one of the earlier four-year-old maiden, with Barry O’Neill coming in for the spare ride.
The pair had previously won a Broughshane Mares Open in a walkover, but on this occasion, it was the patiently ridden Holycross Lito that was delivered to head her approaching the final fence, and from there she pulled six lengths clear under regular rider Noel McParlan.
Representing his father Sean, the nine-year-old was a four-time point winner in the spring of 2017, when she rose from winning a maiden to defeating geldings in open company within the space of two months, including a previous eight length victory over Longhouse Music at Broughshane.
The return of Holycross Lito to a mares’ open division that was seemingly lacking depth, looks set to add a much-needed element to these races for the season as her connections reported that she was likely to mix point-to-pointing with hunter chases.