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A Force to reckon with at Down Royal

By Jimmy Walker

Air Force One, second in the Hennessey Gold Cup two years ago, heads the weights for the Guinness Chase which is the feature race at Down Royal’s St. Patrick’s Day meeting.

The Charlie Mann-trained chaser, who at one time was considered a Gold Cup prospect, unseated his rider in the Grimthorpe Chase won by Wogan at Doncaster last Saturday.

A winner at the Punchestown festival in 2008, Air Force One was also third to Tricky Trickster in the AON Chase at Newbury, the same race in which Denman was the talking point after his disastrous performance.

The eight-year-old Air Force One has returned from almost a year off the track due to a back injury sustained in the 2008 King George VI Chase at Kempton.

The Grand National or the Irish National at Fairyhouse are targets for him.

Selection Box, who was third in the Ulster National at Downpatrick, will represent Colin McBratney in the race while Charlie Swan is liable to have two runners, last year’s winner One Cool Cookie and Offshore Account owned by Downpatrick businessman Billy Polly.

In addition, Hume River who was third in the Ulster National is likely to take his chance for Jessica Harrington who said he didn’t come down the hill at Downpatrick and will be much better suited to Down Royal.

Kircessock Vic represents Jim Lambe in the Bushmills Hunter Chase but obviously the one to be on is Top Twig trained by David Christie.

Christie has Top Twig entered at Cheltenham but may run him at Down Royal instead.

Caulkin is entered for Ian Fergusion who also runs Kilbrannish Hill in the Handicap Hurdle earlier on the card.

Noel Meade generally gets winners here and he will have Corskeagh Royale in the Bailey’s Irish Cream Beginners’ Chase.

Meade’s persistent failures at Prestbury Park became something of a stick to beat him with and the likes of Cardinal Hill, Sweet Wake and Aran Concerto have all been turned over at short prices in Gloucestershire.

Irish champion trainer on no less than seven occasions, he did eventually break his duck at the famous arena when Sausalito Bay beat none other than triple Gold Cup winner Best Mate in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle of 2000.

Further victories followed for Nicanor, who beat another subsequent Gold Cup winner in Denman in the 2006 Royal & Sun Alliance Hurdle and last year when Go Native won the Supreme.

It is Go Native who is Meade's best chance of a winner again this year as he heads the Champion Hurdle market and also stands to win a cool £1million bonus put up by betting exchange WBX.com having won at Newcastle and Kempton already. It could be some day for Noel.

WALKER’S TIPS:

NAAS tomorrow: 2.35 Champus, 3.05 Rare Commodity, 3.35 Hellyhunter, 4.05 Florimund, 4.35 Diophas, 5.05 Got Attitude, 5.35 Romantic Lead.

LIMERICK today: 1.05 Doctor Deejay, 1.35 Rockers Field, 2.05 Grancore Girl, 2.35 Prince Of Forwards, 3.10 Carlowsantana, 3.45 Our Girl Salley.

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