Lambe on the menu for a tasty starter
Trainer James Lambe moved last year to new excellent facilities at Loughgall, County Armagh and has a team of dual purpose horses now in his care, including horses for principal patron Patrick McCann.
Lambe enjoyed a successful summer campaign, winning the Grade 3 Grimes Hurdle at Tipperary with Silk Hall before being delighted with a major victory in the Ulster Derby in June with Sir Ector at Down Royal's Summer Festival.
He had considered targeting this weekend's Down Royal Festival with his Derby winner but has opted to run in the Movenber Handicap at Leopardstown on Sunday with his stable star.
Regardless, Lambe still has multiple entries at Down Royal including Twin Plan and French import Revolution in the Grade 3 Mares Novice Hurdle tomorrow.
The Loughgall handler has also Shanroe Society and Araglen Lad engaged in the handicap hurdle and handicap chase respectively on opening day, having previously enjoyed a double on day one in 2003 with Drift Away and Heraclitean Fire.
Lambe stated: " I always look forward to the Down Royal Festival – it is the shop window, the showcase of the year in the province and gives me opportunities to hopefully register success on the home front which is always special to me and my owners."
The Armagh handler is expecting a busy weekend with entries at Leopardstown and Ayr alongside the local meeting. Brookland Chief, owned by Patrick Mc Cann, is due to make his hurdling debut in the opener on Saturday following a couple of outings on the flat while Twin Plan, a four time winner last season is due to revert to chasing in the Handicap chase on Super Saturday.
The Belfast based Hunt family have a long association with Down Royal. Seamus Hunt is a committee member of the course and Chairman of the Festival event and brother Paul has a large team of horses with top trainer Noel Meade following in the footsteps of their father.
The late Paddy Hunt was also on the Down Royal board while enjoying winners at the track over many decades.
Meade has an outstanding strike rate at the Lisburn venue being second only to Gordon Elliott in the tally of winners while the local owners have registered numerous winners over the past couple of years including claiming the Grade 2 WKD Novice Hurdle last year with Monksland.
The Hunt family will not be short of involvement and interest in results over the two days with multiple entries.
Couleur France and Didntitellya are engaged in the maiden hurdles while Mullaghanoe River has an entry in the beginners chase on Friday and Protaras and Thomond are possibles contenders for the handicap chase on the first session. Newcomer, Wildebeest holds special interest in the first day bumper with the local owners also having Didntitellya engaged and Navan trainer Meade having used the local track bumpers as the starting point for many of the Hunt's youngsters.
The Sloan family from Templepatrick are another with a lengthy history linked to the Maze – as sponsors, racehorse owners and winners at their local course.
The family are also deeply involved in the Ulster equestrian scene with daughter Joanne an international showjumper and father Joe was President of the Northern Ireland International Horse Show which was staged at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast.
However, Joe and Pat Sloan's first love is horse racing, be it flat or jump racing and they collected the Ulster Cesarewitch last year at Down Royal with Blue Cannon – in fact all three of the horse's wins have been at the Maze, on the flat, hurdle and fences.
The Gordon Elliott trained Flaxen Flare provided a Cheltenham Festival winner earlier this year and is engaged in both the Grade 2 WKD Novice Hurdle tomorrow and the big handicap hurdle on Saturday which the talented trainer won last year with Beef To The Heels.
The Sloans also have Guitar Pete, already a winner over hurdles, engaged in the 3 year old hurdle on Saturday, a race they won with Blue Cannon in 2011 while Apache Jack, a Fairyhouse bumper, is engaged in tomorrow's opening maiden hurdle with the pair trained by Dessie Hughes.
While Muirhead is presently the Sloan family's star performer, Realt Mor is their young rising star of the chasing scene and the Gordon Elliott trained runner will be one of the favourites for the Grade 2 Irish Powers Whiskey Novice Chase on Saturday.