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David Christie joy but uncertainty now hangs over Down Royal

 

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In front: Demophon (left) and Sarah Kavanagh ride to victory at Down Royal

In front: Demophon (left) and Sarah Kavanagh ride to victory at Down Royal

Prospectus and JB Kane jump the last before going on to win

Prospectus and JB Kane jump the last before going on to win

In front: Demophon (left) and Sarah Kavanagh ride to victory at Down Royal

Down Royal was run behind closed doors, with regular reminders regarding social distancing over the PA system.

Derrylin trainer David Christie continued his excellent run of success in the hunterchases this season when Winged Leader made every yard to record another victory for the Fermanagh man with champion rider Barry O'Neill aboard.

Alpha Male flattered briefly while third-placed Samurai Cracker, also locally-trained, was always towards the top.

The winner is owned by Portstewart hotelier John Hegarty.

Christie said: "He has really come of age this year. Last year, myself and Barry (O'Neill) took quite a lot of stick when he was beaten a couple of times.

"He was nearly kind of bolting and running away. It would have been so easy to turn him into a horse that you could only run flat out with. He's only a six-year-old and he is a proper horse. I have ambitions with him.

"The whole thing with him was never to get too carried away and just take it wee steps at a time. If we did that, the horse would come to us. If we did the opposite, we would ruin him."

The opener went to Wingin A Prayer, partnered by Robbie Power for trainer Jessica Harrington who is self-isolating - a precaution following two days at Cheltenham last week.

The well-supported (10s to 10/3) winner and runner-up Double Jemmy dominated in the concluding stages in the mist and while the latter led at the penultimate flight, Wingin A Prayer asserted prior to the last.

Kate Harrington said: "We are very pleased with that. He got back onto that soft ground and loved it and was a different horse today for whatever reason. I don't know where we will go next with everything that is going on."

Demophon, trained by Gavin Cromwell, who recorded an across-the-card double with Ifujumpthelastuwin scoring at Wexford, had Sarah Kavanagh in the saddle in the Adare Hurdle to supply a shock 33/1 victory.

Kavanagh (24) said: "He has travelled away and has travelled to the line, I couldn't have asked for better. It is my first winner as a professional. It has been a long time coming so it is a good day."

The trainer doubled up on the day despite the going changing to heavy when Prospectus, with JB Kane aboard, easily claimed the novice chase.

He led three from home prior to asserting before the last and accounting for second-placed Great Khan, who made a bad mistake at the penultimate fence, while favourite Thegoaheadman was pulled up three out.

Cromwell said: "I wasn't sure about the ground. I know he wants an ease in the ground but before on heavy ground he didn't jump that well."

The Philip Fenton-trained Groody Rover saw jockey Brian Hayes to excellent advantage when making all, never seeing another runner to score in facile fashion in the novice hurdle.

The locally-trained Magic Sea finished runner-up and well-supported favourite (5s to 5/2) Fag An Bealach came third.

Fenton said: "Brian (Hayes) had made up his mind before they went out that if there wasn't going to be pace he would make the running. Tactics played a big part - let's hope he's improving."

Monbeg Notorious and Moonshine Bay went head-to-head in the feature over a marathon trip until the former asserted five from home and kept on gamely under Denis O'Regan to beat his stable companion Jury Duty - winner of the American Grand National last year - in the closing stages.

Elliott said: "He jumped great and Denis (O'Regan) gave him a good ride and dictated from the front. He was coming back to a bit of life at home. They are all kind of old-timers, one beating the other. Sean (Flanagan) said Jury Duty just hated that ground. It's just so hard to place those horses with that sort of a rating."

The finale provided another local success with Delvino easily leading at the elbow to beat Sit Down Lucy, with the Dermot McLaughlin-trained mare owned by Draperstown owner PJ Conway.

Horse Racing Ireland will meet today to discuss the future of Irish racing, currently behind closed doors. British racing has been axed until the end of April.

Belfast Telegraph