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Cheltenham 2017: Dennison hopes he can continue to set champion standard

By Ron McKnight

Wilson Dennison, the owner of the Loughanmore Stud nursery at Templepatrick, produces a number of top-flight youngsters every season and is now the go-to man to buy a Cheltenham Festival winner.

Dennison's most recent sale saw a battle develop between the McManus family and Colin Tizzard, who trains the first and second favourites for this year's Gold Cup, to buy Flemenshill - winner of a point to point recently on his debut - and Tizzard paying £480,000 on behalf of Alan Potts, who will be represented by Sizing John in Friday's showpiece.

Last year, Dennison graduates had an amazing run of success at the Aintree and Cheltenham Festivals, including Yorkhill winning the opening Neptune Hurdle, followed by Blaklion landing the RSA Chase and Ballyandy claiming the Champion Bumper.

Dennison will be hoping Ballyandy can strike again in the opening Festival race - the Supreme Novices Hurdle - for his friend and trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies, who is a regular visitor and buyer of horses from the province.

The majority of Dennison's horses carry the 'Bally' prefix when named and Ballycross is another Twiston-Davies runner in the four-mile marathon but looks to have a massive task taking on A Genie In The Bottle.

Dennison is also hoping the Willie Mullins-trained Bellshill can become his second consecutive graduate to win the RSA Chase tomorrow, while Yorkhill will fly the flag for the leading points owner on Thursday in the JLT Novice Chase.

Dennison said: "Last year was fantastic, not only for me but the Ulster point to point circuit and local breeding.

"I'm just hoping lighting can strike twice and the horses I sold can run well for their new owners and trainers who have supported me. I'm optimistic about our chances."

Belfast Bloodstock agent Kevin Ross, who partnered Bindaree to win his point to point at Loughbrickland prior to his sale and Grand National victory for Twiston-Davies in 2002, is represented today by Ordinary World in the Arkle Trophy and Noble Endeavour, who is now favourite for the Ultima Handicap Chase.

Former Crumlin-based jockey turned top trainer Niall Mulholland launches a three-pronged assault on the handicap chase with The Young Master, The Druid's Nephew and Pilgrim's Bay.

Portadown owner and trainer Stephen McConville's Champion Hunterchaser, Anseanachai Cliste, will run in Friday's Foxhunters after gaining a wildcard entry.

The local horse will be partnered by McConville's son, Michael.

Stephen McConville said: "We're thrilled and relieved he's got in. The trip and course should suit him."

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