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Cheltenham 2017: Ulster horses in bold quest for Festival success

By Ron McKnight

The Foxhunters on Gold Cup day is always the focus and annual target of local owners and riders - Anseanachai Cliste and Balnaslow represent Ulster connections this afternoon.

The former, owned and trained by Portadown-based Stephen McConville, was champion point to pointer last year and extended his unbeaten run to eight when recently returning to action at Armagh.

The horse is a family pet and will be partnered by the owner's son Michael on his first visit to Cheltenham.

Balnaslow is trained by Graham McKeever at Templepatrick for long-standing Ballyclare owner Peggy Hagan and is the mount of multiple Irish champion rider Derek O'Connor.

Downpatrick rider David Maxwell partners Mendip Express, which he also owns, and Banbridge-based Stephen Clements is on dual Foxhunter winner Salsify, but it will be hard to beat the hat-trick seeking On The Fringe with Jamie Codd in the saddle seeking further Cheltenham success.

Mega Fortune, formerly trained in County Tyrone by Andy Oliver prior to his purchase by Belfast bloodstock agent Kevin Ross, has had the opening Triumph Hurdle on his agenda since making a winning debut over hurdles at Down Royal in November last year. The son of Irish Derby winner Soldier Of Fortune is now trained by Gordon Elliott, who is on a roll this week.

Wakea was the very easy winner of the feature hurdle race at the Down Royal Festival and paid the price with a massive rise in the ratings.

However, the Karl Thornton-trained runner gets his preferred conditions in today's County Hurdle.

Joey Sasa was another to win last November at the local track. The pair hold solid each way claims.

Death Duty, for many of the Irish contingent, is a banker and won his second bumper at Down Royal since when he has this season established an unbeaten run of four wins over hurdles.

Runfordave is a very well fancied runner for the Templepatrick-based Sloan family in the concluding Martin Pipe Hurdle.

Belfast Telegraph

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