Jessica’s Ulster National mission
TRAINER Jessica Harrington has always failed to nail the Ulster National despite a number of near misses but she should score on Wednesday when Ulster’s best known handicap chase, sponsored by Toal Bookmakers, takes place at Downpatrick.
Mrs Harrington is responsible for Hume River who is owned by a Fermanagh golfing syndicate whose best horse in the recent past was Hume Castle.
Last time out Hume River finished second in the Grand National Trial at Punchestown and Mrs Harrington was delighted with his effort over the marathon trip.
She said: “I think he has a big chance at Downpatrick and I had him working well on the gallops at The Curragh in the past few days.
“All being well, he should give a good account of himself with Robbie Power in the saddle.”
Among the opposition is Lydon House trained by Gordon Elliot who had planned to run him in today’s Eider Chase at Newcastle but changed his mind because the handicapper had hammered him in Elliot’s view.
It turned out to be a wise move as Newcastle is now off due to a water-logged track.
Lydon House was fifth in the Punchestown National Trial and is obviously a major contender.
News Item won the race two years running and Lisburn trainer George Stewart will be hoping to make history with a third success.
However, News Item would appear to be a light of former years and while he should run a decent race over a course he has adapted to, perhaps his best days have gone.
Colin McBratney will be hoping to have his first Ulster National success with Selection Box who fell in the race last year when ridden by Ruby Walsh and is well facied.
He has won at Downpatrick, Down Royal and Ayr and is one you cannot ignore in what is an open race.
Meanwhile McBrantey is hopeful for his Aintree entry Ballyholland who runs in the Newlands Chase at Leopardstown tomorrow.
Ballyholland won the Galway Plate and was successful in two other big races.
But he will be up against it with the Edward O’Grady-trained Tranquil Sea who won the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham in November.
Snowy Morning from Willie Mullins’ stables is another to look out for it in what is a classy contest.
Mullins should have the winner of the Maiden Hurdle with his rather unlucky Cadspeed while Citizen Vic is another from the same stable who has a very big chance in the Novice Chase.
Mick The Man, who was successful at Down Royal for Conor Murphy, is expected to go on to greater things and should show up well in the Carrickmines Handicap Chase.
At Navan today, Downpatrick’s Brian Hamilton runs Amstecos in the Garlow Cross Handicap Hurdle.
He finished seventh at Leopardstown after a three-year absence, much to the delight of his connections.
Prior to that, Amstecos was a winner at Down Royal and Ayr.