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Azurite to give trainer Ger Lyons second Derby victory

By Ron McKnight

The Magners Ulster Derby has attracted a final field of nine runners with trainer Ger Lyons doubly represented.

Stable jockey Colin Keane has opted for top weight Magnolia Beach, but Azurite is the selection after dead heating at the Curragh last time with Urban Moon which re opposes in third place.

The last named, trained by Johnny Murtagh, should again have place claims in the €100,000 feature but despite the small field all have claims to consideration.

Magnolia Beach has had just one start on turf, finishing ninth of 12 at the Curragh over just seven furlongs, and obviously Keane expects improvement over today's distance.

Dermot Weld last won the race in the millennium year with Media Puzzle, a subsequent Melbourne Cup winner.

The Curragh trainer has the Aga Khan-owned Zafayan in today's contest.

Pat Smullen rides, fresh from a Royal Ascot double on Wednesday, one of which – Mustajeeb – was for Weld.

Local interest rests with the Andy Oliver-trained Abby Cadabby.

Already a three time winner he has been raised almost 30lbs in the ratings for his run of success but the horse adds an additional string to the Lyons challenge being owned by his wife via a fun arrangement at the Bloodstock Sales when a trio of trainers bought yearlings and sent one to each of the others to train.

Kevin Prendergast is another to have registered success in the local Derby and has Abushamah engaged, after finally winning his maiden at Roscommon last time but over 7 furlongs.

Wexford Town has yet to win a race but makes his handicap debut for Jim Bolger with the trainer holding an excellent record in the race. The Bolger runner finished behind Zafayan last time but it is notable he finished third to the high-class Free Eagle and Orchestra on his Leopardstown debut in August of last year.

Middleham-based trainer Mark Johnson regularly pops over to the Maze with runners for major prizes and has a duo engaged in this year's Derby renewal with Fran Berry aboard Notarised and Conor Hoban on Blue Atlantic –the pair have similar claims on their British form.

Azurite is taken to supplement Lyons' 2004 victory with Green Lassy in the Magners Derby with Wexford Town a major danger and the Ulster trained Abby Cadabby capable of reaching the frame in the highlight of the local flat racing season at Down Royal.

Seven are declared for the Coolmore Stud Ulster Oaks with Dermot Weld's progressive filly Vintage Nouveau holding major claims.

Jazz Girl – a nine-time winner for Caledon-based trainer Andy Oliver – appears in the grip of the handicapper and Upper Silesian and Dragon Fei appear the principal dangers to the Weld/Smullen runner.

Seal Rock can supply a winner in the opening five furlongs sprint after finishing just three lengths behind his stable companion Shipyard at Navan last weekend. Oliver's runner carries top weight but has an excellent stall's position over this trip at the Maze over the sprint trip.

 

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