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Derby hero's bid for glory

By Frank Brownlow

Pat Smullen was the star of the show at Royal Ascot yesterday, winning the opening two races – the Jersey Stakes and the Queen Mary Stakes – on board Mustajeeb and Anthem Alexander.

Smullen also has a fine record in the Magners Ulster Derby with two victories – but no-one can match Chris Hayes when it comes to success in the Down Royal showpiece which takes place on Saturday.

Hayes has three wins from just five runs in the big race, triumphing last year on Sir Ector.

"It's a very good race. I have always had a lot of luck around there. It's a very fair track," said Hayes, who won on Celtic Dane in 2010 and Temlett in 2007.

"I have been lucky enough to get three wins from my last five rides in the race. You get a great roar when you come in.

"There's always a good turn-out and a great atmosphere. There's a great bit of craic.

"It's a race I am really looking forward to," added Hayes, who is in the running to ride Tyrone trainer Andy Oliver's Abby Cadabby in the €100,000 showdown, which is Northern Ireland's richest race.

The most famous Ulster Derby winner is Media Puzzle, triumphant in 2000 – Smullen riding – before going on to victory in the 2002 Melbourne Cup, one of the world's greatest races.

The Magners Derby is guaranteed to attract many of this year's top runners and riders with more than 6,000 fans expected on Saturday.

This will be the fourth year that Magners has backed the event.

The two-day Ulster Derby meeting starts tomorrow evening, with the Galway Plate Trial the feature contest.

"We are really looking forward to the opening night," said Down Royal General Manager Mike Todd.

"It's a dry forecast and we are watering at the moment. The track is in very good order and we are very pleased with it.

"The feature is the Galway Plate Trial, sponsored by Tote Ireland, and we are looking forward to that race."

Hayes, meanwhile, has a couple of rides for Caledon-based Oliver at Leopardstown tonight.

Hayes rides Pretty Famous in the opening Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden and Panama Hat in the Leopardstown Club Members Handicap.

Ulsterman Tony McCoy stepped up his charge towards an amazing 20th successive champion jockey title with a double at Southwell last night on board Full Throttle and On The Record.

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