Ulster owners set for festive success
Ulster owners could enjoy festive success today at Down Royal's Boxing Day fixture. Noel Meade is one of the leading trainers at the track and has prospects of a double. Sunrae Shadow, owned by Margaret Corr from Ballyclare, has hinted at possible improvement and gets the selection in the Martinstown Hurdle for claiming riders.
Two previous winners of the race - both locally-trained - Coney Choice, winner last year and Court Jester, the winner in 2012, again line up.
Solar Heat Jeremy's Jet, Balkinstown and Skellig Rocks look the dangers to a local victory.
Nina Carberry partners the Meade-trained Bel Ami De Sivola in the Dark Horse Hurdle and can reward the top amateur rider's trip North.
The race has attracted a maximum field of 20 runners with the Tony Martin-trained Lip Service appearing a major danger while Danielle's Journey, trained at Larne by Stuart Crawford, if handling today's heavy going, should be in the frame at the finish. The locally-owned Mountain Kingdom finished runner-up on his hurdles debut and if repeating that effort has place prospects.
The opening contest, the EBF Beginners Chase, is the most valuable of today's races and Ireland's leading jumps owner, JP McManus, could collect the prize with Marlbrook which ran well until a mistake forced the rider to pull up at Navan last time.
Gordon Elliott rarely leaves the local courses without a winner and supplies the likely favourite with Noble Endeavour.
Crossgar handler Colin McBratney has his team in good form and is doubly represented in the hunterchase with Abbey Lane and Marito - the pair ex-Willie Mullins-trained horses.
The last named has impressed in points but has Noble Prince, trained by Paul Nolan, to beat following finishing second in the Champion Hunterchase at the Punchestown Festival last season and is fit from a recent points run.
Current Exchange represents Gordon Elliott having won four open points and three races on the track and will ensure a competitive contest.
Not Before Eight, third to Marito at the Kirkistown point-to-point and beaten by a nose in this race a couple of years ago, cannot be dismissed with Derrylin trainer, David Christie enjoying a successful season in the points arena.
The Francis Flood-trained, Sunsettorise could offer the value bet in the handicap chase with likely favourite Moonlone Lane attempting to complete a hat-trick of victories.Tyrone trainer, James Lambe is a regular visitor the winner's enclosure at the Lisburn course and Cinder Rua with recent placed efforts has definite place claims.
Westend Star, owned by Paul Rooney and his wife Clare, is a recent addition to Gordon Elliott's stable and following a promising debut effort for the Meath trainer could land the EBF Maiden Hurdle.
Illuminati makes his hurdling debut for Downpatrick trainer, Brian Hamilton while Co Armagh trainer Suzy Barkley runs Rock On Westie.
Draperstown owner Pat Conway is represented in the bumper by Avellino which made an impressive debut when runner-up at Fairyhouse recently.
Cullybackey trainer Ian Ferguson has points winner Ballyoptic engaged while Stuart Crawford has A Touch Of Sparkle entered following a promising effort at the track last time.
DOWN ROYAL TIPS: 12.25 Marlbrook (each way) 1.00 Sunsettorise 1.30 Marito 2.00 Westend Star 2.30 Bel Ami De Sivola 3.00 Sunrae Shadow (nap) 3.30 Avellino (double)