Hurricane Fly set for Ulster National
Hurricane Fly became a legend with victory in the Champion Hurdle at last week's Cheltenham Festival – only the second horse to regain the crown in the 86-year history of the great race.
And local racing fans are in for a treat on Sunday when Hurricane Fly, owned by George Creighton from Belfast and Rose Boyd of Crossgar, will parade ahead of the Toals Bookmakers Ulster Grand National at Downpatrick.
Of course, Hurricane Fly – Champion Hurdle winner in 2011 – was not the only Ulster hero at a memorable Festival.
Flaxen Flare, owned by Mrs Pat Sloan from Templepatrick, won the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle and will join Hurricane Fly ahead of Sunday's feature race.
Other Ulster success at the Festival included the brilliant Gold Cup triumph of Fermanagh-bred Bobs Worth, while locally-owned Big Shu won the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase.
AP McCoy – victorious in the opener at Haydock yesterday on board Eyre Apparent for Lucinda Russell – will next month win an incredible 18th successive champion jockey title but the Co Antrim ace drew a blank on the Festival's first three days before weighing in with a double on Gold Cup day and finishing runner-up to Bobs Worth in the big race itself on board Sir Des Champs.
Duroob will attempt to win back-to-back Ulster Nationals for Co Monaghan trainer Oliver Brady.
"Duroob is in great form and will be back to retain his title," said Brady.
"I take great pleasure in having won both the big Ulster races – the Ulster National and the Ulster Derby at Down Royal."
Lisburn trainer George Stewart managed successive victories in 2006 and 2007 with News Item.
Ulster trainers have an excellent record in the big race with Omagh handler Mervyn Torrens successful in 2011 with Hughies Grey and Downpatrick's Brian Hamilton on target with Chief Oscar in 2010.
A total of 25 entries have been received for Sunday's feature – worth €16,250 to the winner – with Sole Witness, trained at Crossgar by Colin McBratney, set to carry top weight.
Top trainers Noel Meade, Mouse Morris, Gordon Elliott and Christy Roche are represented while Co Armagh handler Jim Lambe has three entries.
Larne trainers Stuart Crawford and Roy Wilson have an entry apiece.
"We are delighted to be associated with the Ulster National and Downpatrick," said Dan Mallon, Chief Executive of sponsors Toals Bookmakers.
"The management has implemented major changes to supply better value and comfort for the public and I would expect another thrilling Ulster National."
A competitive seven-race card starts on Sunday at 2.50pm, with the big race at 4.20pm.