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Yorkhill leads chase for Cheltenham glory for horses with Northern Ireland connections


By Ron McKnight

Several horses with Northern Ireland connections feature on the first day of Cheltenham.

Yorkhill bids for a third Festival victory and reverts to hurdles having blotted his copy book over fences, while Identity Thief is another to have come through the Templepatrick Nursery of Wilson Dennison.

Down Royal manager Mike Todd is hoping Melon can prevail and back up his victory in the first day feature of the Lisburn course's Festival event, and Champion trainer Willie Mullins will remove the head gear from Melon.

While Getabird is favourite for the opening Supreme Novice Hurdle having started his career winning a point-to-point at Crumlin, Dennison said not to overlook Slate House and "the best was still to come" from the horse sold at last year's Festival sale for £260,000.

Petit Mouchoir won on his debut at Kirkistown prior to winning the Punchestown Champion Bumper and could deny favourite Footpad in the Arkle Chase.

Corgy is another to start his career locally and proved a grand servant for trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies. He has great each way appeal at 20/1.

Rathvinden, formerly trained by Ian Ferguson at Cullybackey, and owned by Ronnie Bartlett - a supporter of Ulster racing - is being aimed at the marathon four miler with Willie Mullins' son Patrick taking the mount.

Ballyhill, another trained beside the course by Nigel Twiston-Davies, also received an endorsement by former owner Dennison.

LOCAL VALUE: First race: Slate House 25/1 (ew). Second race: Petit Mouchoir 7/2. Third race: Cogry 20/1 (ew). Fourth race: Melon 16/1 (ew). Fifth race: Jer's Girl 14/1 (ew). Sixth race: Rathvinden 7/1. Seventh race: Ballyhill 20/1 (ew).

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