Ulster horses in hunt for success on Aintree opening day
Ulster connections are doubly represented in tomorrow's Foxhunters Chase at Aintree (4.05), Balnaslow and Darwin's Fox. Balnaslow, trained by Graham McKeever at Templepatrick, ran a smashing race in the Foxhunters at the Cheltenham Festival when attempting to make all the running and leading until the final fence where the horse made a mistake and finally finished fifth, only three lengths behind the winner, Pacha Du Polder.
The latter again re-opposes while the JP McManus owned On The Fringe, which started favourite at Cheltenham has already been installed favourite for the Aintree race but was only a half-length ahead of the local horse which again be will be partnered by multiple All Ireland champion rider Derek O'Connor. Balnaslow is owned by octogenarian Peggy Hagan from Ballyclare who has owned numerous racehorses.
Derrylin trainer David Christie has had a couple of previous contenders run in the Aintree Foxhunters but believes Darwins Fox is by far the best horse he has sent to Aintree to date. Darwins Fox is owned by Ulster born David Maxwell but the keen amateur rider, now based in Britain, will partner the Philip Hobbs trained Mendip Express which he also owns in the event with top Irish amateur rider Barry O'Neill getting the mount on Darwins Fox.
Trainer Christie believes the horse can belie his current 40/1 price and said: "He's in great form and I think the distance of the race is ideal for him. He finished runner up at the course a couple of years ago when narrowly beaten. He's schooled well over National style fences at the Curragh with no problems."