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Amateurs target glory in first night feature at Galway

By Ron McKnight

Northern Ireland amateur riders tonight attempt to land the first night feature of the marathon Galway Festival - the Connacht Hotel Handicap restricted to amateur riders.

Banbridge's Steven Clements appears to have major claims, having made history when recording back-to-back victories in the most prestigious flat race for amateur riders in 2013 and 2014 aboard Edeymi and Quick Jack respectively.

The pair were trained by Meath handler Tony Martin and the top local rider again joins forces with the trainer when partnering the high-class Ted Veale which finished third in the race last year and subsequently third in the Galway Hurdle three days later.

Ted Veale is unraced since the Punchestown Festival in April but will be fully primed for this evening's feature.

Declan Lavery, Steven Crawford and Noel McParlan are other Ulster riders lining up tonight in the 'Amateur Derby'.

The last named is a dual champion point-to-point rider and the Cabra-based man will take the mount on the John McConnell-trained Enzani.

Larne's Steven Crawford has been called up by Robbie McNamara to ride Chadic for the trainer whose riding career ended when sustaining serious spinal injuries at Wexford last year.

'Deckie' Lavery, based with Downpatrick trainer Brian Hamilton as stable amateur, is reunited with Roconga trained by Edward O'Grady, having won a Clonmel bumper on the horse last year.

Scarva-based trainer Natalia Lupini is another local represented on the opening session of the Galway Festival with Blairmayne - a winner when partnered by Kieren Fallon at Fairyhouse last month engaged in Clayton Hotel Handicap. However, the local runner will have to overcome a poor draw being drawn 14 of the 15 runners due to start.

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