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Cheltenham 2017: Flying Angel and Yorkhill hope to make the grade

By Ron McKnight

Yorkhill and Flying Angel represent the province's graduates in today's opening contest at Cheltenham - the Grade 1 JLT Novice Chase. Yorkhill already has a Cheltenham Festival victory on his CV having won the Neptune Hurdle last year.

The pair are formerly owned by Templepatrick's Wilson Dennison and Flying Angel was sourced for an owner who wanted to name his own horse. The County Antrim man considers Yorkhill his banker.

Gordon Elliott, who registered a hat-trick on day one and followed it up with a double yesterday, seeks further success at Cheltenham and Lisa O'Neill, who manages his office and also scored on the first session aboard Tiger Roll, partners Sutton Place in the Pertemps Hurdle.

Teenager Jack Kennedy also recorded his first Festival winner on Tuesday and rides Jury Duty for the trainer. However, despite connections' annoyance with the English handicapper, Presenting Percy still holds major claims with Davy Russell in the saddle and the top jockey seldom fails to score at the Festival.

Former County Antrim-based trainer Neil Mulholland saddles Impulsive Star in the race.

Ballymalin won a point to point at Toome and is another seeking Festival success for the Templepatrick nursery.

Empire Of Dirt has scaled the heights since finishing runner-up in a Down Royal Beginners Chase and finished second in the last Irish Gold Cup.

Sub Lieutenant won the Grade 2 Novice Chase feature in November at the Maze Festival and the pair are owned by Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown Stud and attempt to give O'Leary a first success in his own Ryanair Chase.

Ballyoptic and Shaneshill represent the Dennison nursery in the Stayers Hurdle while Ballykhan, which had good form in local point to points, contests the handicap chase.

Montana Belle, bought by Roger Brookhouse from Larne trainer Stuart Crawford, is capable of a bold showing in the Grade 2 Mares Hurdle for Henry De Bromhead.

Two local riders have mounts in the finale for amateur riders. Banbridge-based Stephen Clements partners Balbir Du Mathan for trainer Alan Fleming while Downpatrick-born David Maxwell partners Unioniste.

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