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Christie digs deep in bid for Festival glory

By Ron McKnight

Derrylin trainer David Christie spent the weekend digging snow off his all-weather gallop in order to make sure his pair of Cheltenham Festival entries — Marinero and Eddie’s Miracle — were kept on the go.

“The gallop is the most important thing we use to work the horses. We have additional facilities but they need the all-weather surface for faster pieces of work,” he explained.

County Fermanagh has already produced a Gold Cup winner, with Bobs Worth — bred by Lois Eadie — winning in 2013 having been bought from the local breeder by Barry Geraghty prior to his sale to Nicky Henderson.

Christie — four times a Northern Champion point-to-point trainer — has Marinero entered for the Kim Muir Chase, with Eddie’s Miracle engaged in the St James Palace Foxhunters on Gold Cup day on Friday. 

Both races are confined to amateur riders, and owner/rider David Maxwell — an Ulster-born amateur now a London-based businessman — will partner Marinero, while stable amateur Barry O’Neill is due to take the mount on Eddie’s Miracle in the Foxhunters.

The latter has been on an upward curve since joining Christie and is now the winner of six point-to-points, while finishing a decent fourth on his most recent outing at Fairyhouse.

Maxwell has horses doing work with several trainers, including Philip Hobbs and Paul Nicholls, and will partner Unioniste — trained by the latter — in the Foxhunters contest.

Christie said: “The entries for a lot of races close at an early stage and are very large.

“We will not know until closer to the time if they will run or not but we need to have them in the best possible form in the hope they get into their respective races.”

Local connections have seen considerable success in The Foxhunters over the years.

Tammys Hill won in 2014 for Newry trainer Liam Lennon, while Cullybackey trainer Ian Ferguson sent out Zemsky to score in 2011 to eclipse the trainer’s placed efforts in the race.  

Call Collect completed the Cheltenham/Aintree Foxhunters double, winning at Aintree in 1989 prior to scoring at Cheltenham the following year, with former local amateur Raymond Martin aboard, who is now a steward at Down Royal and has completed several marathon bicycle rides in aid of charity.

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