Monksland back on a mission at Down Royal Festival
Friday's first session of the Down Royal Festival has attracted several star names, including locally owned Monksland, once considered a Cheltenham World Hurdle candidate.
Day one at Down Royal features the Grade 2 WKD Hurdle which has attracted 12 entries, including the Gordon Elliott trained Hostile Fire, owned by the Sloan family from Templepatrick who sponsor the £50,000 race.
Officieux and Snow Falcon are another locally owned pair, trained by Noel Meade for Belfast based Patricia Hunt.
Irish Champion trainer Willie Mullins has a trio engaged with Whiteout, Valyssa Monterg and Daisy's Gift, the latter being top rated of the Mullins team - Whiteout won when dead heating with He'll Be Remembered in the Ulster Cesarewitch at the track last month.
Jessica Harrington is a regular in the winners enclosure at the Festival and has Modem which won the Galway Festival feature for amateur riders in July and twice a winner over hurdles since.
Ireland's leading jumps owner, JP McManus, has a duo engaged with Princely Conn and Plinth, the latter trained by Aidan O'Brien who was crowned Champion Flat trainer for the eighth time last weekend.
Trainer Henry De Bromhead has the highly regarded Identity Thief, owned by Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary, entered in the Friday feature.
The supporting feature Grade 3 Lough Construction Mares Novice Hurdle has nine engaged with Colla Pier and Dancing Meadows the top rated pair while Gordon Elliott, trainer of the last named, also has Whistle Dixie entered.
Willie Mullins is due to be represented by Listen Dear, a Downpatrick bumper winner and runner-up over hurdles at that course to Dancing Meadows prior to winning at Clonmel last time.
The Bill Porter sponsored Beginners Chase could develop into a hot contest with numerous high profile horses entered.
Best known of these is Monksland, another of the Hunt family's team, who could make his chasing debut.
Monksland has only ran three times in recent seasons but these included finishing runner-up to Dedigout, beaten a short head in January prior to running in the World Hurdle at this year's Cheltenham Festival and finishing third to the very high class Simonsig in the Neptune Hurdle at the 2012 Cheltenham Festival.
It's also notable that Monksland won his bumper at the Down Royal Festival in 2011.
Sizing John, Noble Endeavour, No More Heroes, Fair Return, Killer Crow and Marinero are other eye catching entries while the Hunt family are also represented by Bonny Kate, a dual hurdles winner and again due to make her chasing debut in what could prove a major highlight of day one.
Friday's racing gets underway at 1.00pm with the Eventsec Hurdle for which Gordon Elliott has seven entries included while Larne trainer Stuart Crawford has a quartet engaged in the concluding Killyhevlin Hotel bumper, formerly the Archie Watson Memorial NH Flat race with Undisputed and A Touch Of Sparkle notable debutantes for the local trainer who has claimed the contest several times.