Kingfisher tops O'Brien's bill
Irish Champion trainer Aidan O'Brien looks set to dominate this year's renewal of the Ulster Derby, sponsored by Magners.
The conditions of the race have changed with the race restricted to three-year-olds only and over a shorter distance of one mile and three furlongs.
The Irish Champion trainer, who will be supervising his large team of Royal Ascot contenders, has entered 11 horses for the flat feature of the summer racing at Down Royal.
Kingfisher, which contested the Epsom Derby last time following victory at Chester in the Dee Stales, and Johann Strauss – the latter having finished fourth to Kingman on the Irish 2,000gn at the Curragh on his last effort – are the top rated duo of the Ballydoyle contingent.
The Ulster Derby prizemoney has increased in value to £100,000 and Middleham-based trainer Mark Johnston has five horses engaged with Snow Squall and Bureau, owned by Sheikh Hamdam, along with Blue Atlantic – owned by Roger Brookhouse, who continues to expand his bloodstock interests.
Kildare trainer Jessica Harrington, who has claimed the feature twice in recent seasons – including with Bankers Bonus in 2011 – has a duo engaged with Bribe The Bouncer and Benny Blanco set to start.
The pair are in the ownership of Anamoine Limited, who owned the 2011 victor.
Last year, Sir Ector supplied a local winner. However, due to the changes in the race conditions, James Lambe is unable to bid for his intended repeat victory but Caledon-based Andy Oliver has a pair of contenders to represent Tyrone in the improving I'll Be Your Clown and Abby Cadabby.
The latter is already a three-time winner and is owned by trainer Ger Lyons' wife, Lynne, following a trio of trainers including Oliver, Lyons and Eddie Lynam.
Ger Lyons has a trio entered, including Magnolia Beach, which is owned by the rising dominant force in global racing, Qatar Racing.
They appointed one of the world's most famous jockeys, Frankie Dettori, as their number one jockey after striking a deal last year.
Kevin Prendergast, Jim Bolger, Dermot Weld and John Oxx already are on the roll of honour of having previously trained Ulster Derby winners and again have made entries to put up a fight for the coveted £100,000 Magners prize.
Saturday will see a set of modern stalls in use at the Lisburn venue replacing the vintage 35-year-old stalls, which caused chaos at last month's fixture in the flat races when failing to open correctly.
However, the stalls limit the number of runners in the Ulster Derby to a maximum field of 14 entrants.
The two-day fixture gets under way this Friday evening with an all-jumps schedule and the feature race, the Galway Plate Trial Chase.