Tony McCoy to Jez up Down Royal Festival
Entries for the 14 races over the two days of this weekend's Down Royal Festival have been revealed with a total of 249 horses lining up over the two days – 135 on Friday and 114 on Saturday.
Total prize money during the meeting amounts to almost £450,000 with Friday's feature, the £50,000 WKD Grade 2 Novice Hurdle and Jezki, the mount of Tony McCoy, likely to prove the star attraction of the opening day.
McCoy's chances of landing his eagerly awaited 4,000th winner at Down Royal receded as yesterday's Bangor abandonment left him still needing 11 for the magical figure.
His Friday mount, Jezki, the top rated JP Mc Manus owned hurdler – third behind Champagne Fever at the Cheltenham Festival before landing the Grade 1 Novice hurdle at the Punchestown Festival – will have most to fear from Flaxen Flare, winner of the Grade 3 Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle at this year's Cheltenham showcase meeting.
Flaxen Fare is also notable, being owned by race sponsors, Joe and Pat Sloan from Templepatrick.
Ireland's leading jumps owner, JP Mc Manus, has another entry in Thomas Edison, trained by Tony Martin which was a major fancy for the Galway Hurdle when partnered by McCoy, finishing 11th.
Paul Nicholls has added Caid Du Berlais to Friday's feature entries with his representative having filled second at the Cheltenham Festival behind Flaxen Flare.
Que Pasa, a four time winner including over the Maze course, is top rated in the Grade 3 Mares Hurdle while local trainers Stuart Crawford, James Lambe and Brian Hamilton, all have horses engaged in the supporting contest.
Top trainer Noel Meade has a quartet engaged in the bumper on the first day while, again, numerous Ulster trainers have made entries for the finale.
Three defected from the Festival feature, the JN wine.com Champion Chase, leaving a field of nine with all the principal contenders standing their ground in the £140,000 Grade 1 contest at yesterday's forfeit stage.
The first four home last year, Kauto Stone, First Lieutenant, Roi Du Mee and Realt Dubh, are again due to battle for honours in the Ulster showpiece steeplechase.
Former British Champion trainer Nicholls has had the Ulster festival in mind for several months and Rolling Aces is due to represent him in the Grade 2 Powers Irish Whiskey Novice Chase where Nicholls has collected the valuable prize for the past five years.
Richard Lee is another British trainer tempted by the Maze prize money and has entered Grey Gold for the supporting feature with his runner having concluded last season by beating the highly regarded Mikael D'Haguenet at the Punchestown Festival.
The £50,000 Novice Chase has attracted an ultra-competitive field including Cheltenham Festival winner, the Jim Culloty trained Lord Windermere which is also engaged in the Festival feature chase.
Gordon Elliott is doubly represented with Realt Mor, another owned by the Sloan family from Templepatrick, along with Toner D'Oudairies, winner of his last three starts including the recent Punchestown feature when Roi Du Mee and First Lieutenant filled second and third.
Tony Martin is another top trainer with a brace engaged - Dedigout and Beneficent - the latter another Cheltenham Festival winner in the spring of this year.
Navan trainer Noel Meade again has a duo entered including the Ulster owned Texas Jack while Jessica Harrington has Oscars Well in the novice event with the horse once considered a possible Champion Hurdler having finished sixth behind Rock On Ruby in the 2012 Championship race.