Jury's out for a Grand National verdict after Maze success
Trainer Gordon Elliott sent out the first three in Saturday's feature race at Down Royal's St Patrick's Day meeting with the winner, Jury Duty, now being lined up to add an Aintree National to his CV following victory in the American Grand National at Far Hills last October.
Jury Duty, tipped in Saturday's Belfast Telegraph, was partnered by Keith Donoghue who claimed the cross country chase at Cheltenham last week. Assistant trainer Ian Amond said: "It was a nice surprise as (second placed) Mala Beach looked the obvious one. Jury Duty has had a nice break since America and we were hoping he would come and run a good race and put him right for the Grand National. It's a bonus he has gone and won so his next stop now is Aintree. The he will go back to America to race in May.
Don Poli finished third and Amond said all three horses will probably now go to Aintree.
A quality field lined up for the novice hurdle in which The White Volcano, trained at Armagh by John Woods and partnered by Conor Maxwell, which prevailed.
The winner is owned by long-time supporter Philip White who said: "He stayed on well, He won a point-to-point over three miles on that sort of ground so we were expecting a good run. Hopefully he'll be out again soon."
The partnership that landed the Gold Cup at Cheltenham, Irish champion trainer Willie Mullins and jockey Paul Townend. claimed the opener with Roll Again. The French-bred strolled home in the testing conditions, having led three from home. Reflecting on winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Townend said: "It's starting to sink in a bit now. We watched the video a few times but no celebrations yet as we had to come here today."
Gavin Cromwell, who trained the Champion Hurdle winner Espoir D'allen, sent out Biddy The Boss to give a bold display of jumping with Sean Flanagan on board to win the Maze Beginners Chase.
A gamble was landed in the Adare Manor Hurdle when Ballymadun (14s to 7/1) went to the front with Paddy O'Hanlon in the saddle three from home to register an easy victory for trainer Dermot McLaughlin. Locals filled second, third and fourth places.
Burning Ambition bypassed the Cheltenham Foxhunters and the decision reaped reward in the Hunter Chase when the Pierce Power trained horse, partnered by Rob James, held the challenge of Sidetracked. Arthur Moore rarely has runners in bumpers and punters failed to note when Fag An Bealach was the impressive 33/1winner of the finale.