River makes splash for Ulster breeders
Dromore farmer and cattle breeder Fred Mackie had a day to remember when Native River, which he bred, made most of the running in the Gold Cup before finishing a gallant third just three lengths behind winner Sizing John.
Mackie is a leading breeder of Belgium Blue cattle but he and his wife Maureen are also passionate and successful breeders of thoroughbred racehorses as their record testifies.
Maureen said: "We're absolutely thrilled by the way he ran. His jumping ability stood to him.
"Perhaps a bit more rain and ease in the going would have helped but he was smashing in the big race. Best thing is that he's home safe."
The County Down family have only a couple of broodmares and will be hoping for a filly foal to retain.
The dam Native Mo - named after the owner - had a foal by St Leger winner Milan which has been sold and is due to again go to stud shortly however a final decision on which stallion she goes to has yet to be taken.
Native River was ridden by champion jockey Richard Johnson.
Bloodstock agent Harold Kirk, who lives beside Down Royal, missed yesterday's local fixture as he was at Cheltenham.
However Kirk was a happy man following Willie Mullins' blitz of winners.
Kirk is a longstanding and key part of the Mullins team and buys the majority of the champion trainer's horses in Ireland and France.
Champion Hurdler, the great Hurricane Fly, was an inspired buy for his Ulster owners.
Kirk bought all three Grade One winners plus the winner and runner-up in the Grade Two Mares Hurdle - Let's Dance and Barra.
Mega Fortune, formerly trained in Caledon by Andy Oliver and bought for current connections by Kevin Ross, ran a great race to finish runner-up in the Triumph Hurdle while another Ross purchase Runfordave filled third in the Martin Pipe Hurdle for the Templepatrick-based Sloan family.