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Don and Conti boost Down Royal Festival's star quality

By Ron McKnight

Expect to see future Cheltenham Festival winners when the Down Royal Festival gets under way tomorrow. That's the message from Down Royal General Manager Mike Todd, who is celebrating 20 years in his role and flags up Don Poli and Silviniaco Conti as star attractions.

"I'll be surprised if racegoers over the two days don't get a chance to see a couple of future Cheltenham Festival winners in action at the course," he said.

"I think we have attracted the best quality entry for the meeting since its inception.

"We have a dual King George winner with Silviniaco Conti definitely a runner and I have been in constant contact with trainer Paul Nicholls who has been a tremendous support to our event and he is expecting a very big run from the horse.

"Hopefully enough rain will fall in advance as Gordon Elliott is very keen to run Don Poli in the Champion Chase - he was third in the Gold Cup to Don Cossack which won the Festival feature last season.

"Gigginstown have an amazing record in the two big races and they have numerous horses engaged again in a quest to add to their tally on Super Saturday.

"We also have the Aintree Grand National runner-up with The Last Samuri, and his trainer Kim Bailey rang to get the latest update on the going."

Todd advised the going is currently good/good to yielding in places, with rain expected at some stage today.

"Some rain is forecast which would be perfect as a few of the top horses want a degree of ease in the ground," he said.

Todd also pointed out that Henry de Bromhead would love to win the feature having seen his former stable star Sizing Europe finish runner-up on his three attempts to land the £140,000 prize.

He has Valseur Lido engaged, the favourite for the Hennessey Gold Cup later this month.

De Bromhead has Sub Lieutenant in the supporting feature, the Grade 2 Titanic Novice Chase, following a winning debut for the trainer at Limerick last month after the re-shuffle of the Gigginstown horses, having been previously based with Sandra Hughes.

Todd said: "I just want the best for the horses, trainers and sponsors that support the event. Safe racing going will ensure the top horses turn up and hopefully provide the highest class of racing."

He added that tomorrow's Punter Pack specials are almost sold out.

Todd added: "Victoria Square have been great supporters of the racing here and again sponsor the Best Dressed Lady competition with a trip to Cape Town the prize this year."

Meanwhile Larne trainer Stuart Crawford, who withdrew Fine Rightly from the local Festival feature, will now aim his locally-owned and bred stable star at the Betfair Chase at Haydock later this month.

"He wants plenty of cut and so really the Betfair Chase looks the next logical target," he said.

"I'm hoping we can go close to winning a Grade One with him. Haydock looks a good target because the track and ground will hopefully be in his favour. He will put up a good show if he gets his preferred going."

Belfast Telegraph


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