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Athenry will lead the field for O'Brien

By Ron McKnight

Irish Champion trainer Aidan O'Brien has recorded four winners to date at Royal Ascot and will attempt to claim another major prize - the Magners Ulster Derby today at Down Royal with Fields Of Athenry.

The Ballydoyle horse shoulders top weight and having made all the running last time is equipped with a hood to get him to relax.

The Derby mount is the sole ride at the fixture for the champion trainer's son and dual Champion jockey, Joseph. Fields Of Athenry won his sole start this season in May on Dundalk's all-weather track and is held in high regard by Coolmore connections.

Today's feature has supplied an ultra-competitive handicap and Botany Bay trained by Charles O'Brien gets the vote to supply the value bet in the contest despite still a maiden.

Charles O'Brien's horse has shown promise and the extra distance of the Ulster derby can bring about the required improvement.

Several hold major claims, including Xebec, but trainer, John Oxx's team has yet to hit top form this term.

Buenos y Bobos won at Fairyhouse last time and again will benefit from today's trip while trainer Ger Lyons went close last year providing the second and third in the Maze feature with the handler again doubly represented with Azzuri.

Trainer Jim Bolger won the Ulster Derby last year and Brightly Shinning represents the trainer today with the filly progressing with each race and is bottom weight.

Whitehaven Bay, Hurricane Cass and Tuk Tuk are all closely matched on recent Curragh form and hold place claims.

In a very competitive renewal of the £100,000 contest Botany Bay just gets preference over Buenos Y Bobos and Xebec.

Oxx could claim the supporting feature, the Coolmore Ulster Oaks, with Colour Rhapsody which makes her seasonal debut for the Curragh trainer.

JP McManus is doubly represented with Princess Aloof and Back On Top.

Tyrone trainer Andy Oliver has Witty Repartee - a Leopardstown winner last week declared.

Calm Bay, a six-times winner including over the course and distance last year, could gain a repeat victory in the opening sprint.

Independence Day can provide a banker on the card after being fourth to Air Force Blue on his Curragh debut. Mufrad appears another banker in the finale.

Belfast Telegraph

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