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Barry Geraghty in hot form ahead of his Cheltenham bid

By Ron McKnight

Star jockey Barry Geraghty, top trainer Edward O'Grady and the colours of leading Irish owner JP McManus were in the Downpatrick winners enclosure ahead of next week's Cheltenham Festival after Jumptoconclusions easily won the novice handicap hurdle.

Geraghty's Festival rides include Ulster-bred Bobs Worth in the Gold Cup next Friday - the pair successful in the big race in 2013 - as well as Sprinter Sacre in Wednesday's Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Jumptoconclusions led at the last and won the race - supported by the Irish Jockeys Association - in facile fashion.

O'Grady said: "The race panned out very nicely for him and the fancied horses had a bad day out or fell.

"He was fortunate and I'm delighted and I think he will like better ground.

"We'll probably try for something similar next."

Gordon Elliott tuned up nicely for the Festival when Akorakor won the aptly named Easy Does It Maiden Hurdle.

Akorakor, in the Michael O'Leary colours with retained rider Brian Cooper in the saddle, triumphed comfortably, leading at the final flight before readily asserting on the run home.

Elliott said: "We thought he'd win coming up. We'll see where we go from here but we'll see if we can find another small race to get him a bit of confidence."

Elliott doubled up when Alberta won the concluding Posh Nosh bumper, with Nina Carberry in the saddle.

Autumn Shades made most of the running and survived a mistake at the last to land the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Maiden Hurdle for jockey Johnny Burke and trainer Michael Molloy.

Molloy, after recording his first course winner since 2009, said: "She deserved that as I thought in Punchestown she didn't deserve the fall she had.

"People were telling me to up her in trip, but I thought after Navan she didn't stay. She has plenty of pace and I think a helluva lot of this mare, that's why I kept her. She's a chaser but we might find another hurdle race for her next."

A photograph was needed to separate Annie Alainn and the appropriately named Disputed in the Northern Region Breeders Handicap Hurdle before the former, trained by Thomas Mullins and partnered by his son David, was declared the winner.

Magical Mother claimed the Martinstown Opportunity Handicap Chase for trainer John Beamish and jockey Kevin Sexton.

The lead alternated in the Arkle Years Hunters Chase as the locally-trained James attempted to make most of the running.

However favourite Court Frontier - trained by Alan Fleming with John Fitzpatrick in the saddle - having lost his place a mile from home was the one to deliver a decisive challenge going to the last and won easily on the uphill climb.

So now all eyes turn to the four-day Cheltenham Festival which starts on Tuesday, with Hurricane Fly the big Ulster hope in the opening day feature, the Champion Hurdle.

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