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Derek and Edwulf to lead the pack at Down Royal

Form choice: Derek O’Connor and Edwulf can score at Down Royal today
Form choice: Derek O’Connor and Edwulf can score at Down Royal today

By Ron McKnight

Multiple champion amateur rider Derek O'Connor travels to the Down Royal Boxing Day meeting for a few rides, notably Edwulf in the Bluegrass Hunters Chase.

The top rider produced a miracle on the JP McManus-owned runner in the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown last year. He trailed last for most of the contest but fought back to clinch victory - a performance which was nominated for Ride of the Year.

While Edwulf is not straightforward, he has now embarked on a hunter chase career and, having won a point to point in October, can score today in the efforts of connections to qualify him for the Foxhunters at the Cheltenham Festival.

He is up against a top-class field, with Derrylin trainer David Christie doubly represented by Marinero and Dylrow, while Coastal Tiep, trained in Larne by Stuart Crawford, finished fourth in last year's Aintree Foxhunters.

Burning Ambition filled the runner-up spot at Aintree and champion trainer Willie Mullins is also doubly represented by Black Hercules and Billaway, the pair reverting from the course proper.

Gordon Elliott runs Ucello Conti, another high-class horse, but Edwulf can take his first step towards the Cheltenham Festival.

The White Volcano, trained in Armagh by John Woods, gets the nap vote in the 1.35pm Beginners Chase. A repeat of his penultimate effort when a narrow runner-up at Fairyhouse would be good enough to land the prize.

Isle Of Destiny, Touch Of Oscar, Cherokee Bill and Theatre World, on his chasing debut, are the dangers.

Alighted, Farceur Du Large, Coolagh Park and the locally-trained Legacy Thor form the shortlist in the opener, with the former, trained by Joseph O'Brien, getting preference.

Russian Bill could supply the answer to the Red Mills Hurdle under the conditions of the race. Bought for only £16,000, the race is for horses costing less than £30,000. Ballyhot Boy, Behind The Curtain, Farsideofthemoon and Moonshot appear to be the dangers.

Fight For Love, Back To Bataan, Laureate and Well Joey all have recent form to their credit in the Adare Manor Hurdle for claiming jockeys, and the former, trained by Elliott, could prevail.

Six-time points winner Sliabh Mhuire Lass, partnered by O'Connor for his sister Grainne, might be good enough to deny likely favourite Golden Sunset in the handicap chase, with the locally-trained Carried another possible to supply value in the race.

Elliott's Farouk D'alene, a £260,000 purchase after landing a point to point on his debut, can warrant the spend in the bumper, the last of a seven-race programme. Railway Hurricane, Macquinn and debutant Trump Legend could be capable of reaching the frame.

SELECTIONS: 12pm Alighted; 12.30pm Russian Diamond; 1pm Fight For Love; 1.35pm The White Volcano (nap); 2.10pm Sliabh Mhuire Lass; 2.45pm Edwulf (double); 3.20pm Farouk D'alene.

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