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More Of That heads stellar Festival cast

By Ron McKnight

While star horses like More Of That and Carlingford Lough get set to go for glory, celebrities are searching for binoculars while deciding which designer item to wear at Down Royal's Festival of Racing tomorrow and Saturday.

The event showcases the only Graded chases run in the province with the headline act, the Grade One Champion Chase, worth £140,000 and sponsored by the course Chairman Jim Nicholson.

The past week has seen work on additional facilities with marquees erected and in excess of 600 staff will be employed each day.

On the food glorious food and drink front, seven tonnes of Irish butter, four tonnes of Armagh potatoes, 3,000 bottles of Champagne, 12,000 bottles of wine, 5,000 beef fillets, 4,000 chicken breasts and 50,000 pints of beer are consumed annually at the Lisburn course with a large portion accounted for during the festival.

Down Royal General Manager Mike Todd advised yesterday that the going is soft, yielding in places, following the track's inspection by the Turf Club's Clerk of the Course Brendan Sheridan, a former top jockey who won the Cheltenham Festival's Triumph Hurdle on Rare Holiday for Dermot Weld.

Todd confirmed JP McManus will be doubly represented in the feature on Super Saturday with the Jonjo O'Neill-trained More Of That due to join Carlingford Lough - trained by John Kiely - in the line-up.

Saturday is ladies day and while the hats and fascinators are being set at the right angle in attempts to land the Best Dressed prize of a 10 day trip to Rio, don't forget the local lady trainers capable of supplying a winner on big days, namely Sarah Dawson, Susie Barkley, Clare Cannon and Nicole McKenna.

The bumper collectable race card compiled by Weatherbys will provide a wealth of information on facilities, how to bet and tips.

Todd advises racegoers to arrive early with race previews and entertainment provided in advance of the action.

Robbie Power is confident Our Duke is "ready to rock and roll" ahead of his eagerly-anticipated seasonal debut in the Champion Chase.

Jessica Harrington's charge won three of his four starts as a novice over fences last season, rounding off his campaign with a stunning victory in the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse.

The seven-year-old is a general 8-1 shot for the Cheltenham Gold Cup next March.

Power said: "That day going to Fairyhouse (for the Irish Grand National), I thought he'd win, but to win the way he did was seriously impressive.

"He's had a good break over the summer, he's summered really well, and he looks a million dollars. He's ready to go and he's as fit as we could have him without having a run.

"He schooled really well this morning, he looks fantastic and he's ready to rock and roll."

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