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Paul Nicholls well placed to emulate Kauto success at Down Royal's Festival of Racing

By Ron McKnight

Mick Fitzgerald and Paul Carberry were among the big names in Belfast yesterday to help launch Down Royal's eagerly anticipated Northern Ireland Festival of Racing at which Paul Nicholls will again be the man to follow.

Johnny Burke, Andrew McNamara and At The Races presenter Matt Chapman were also in attendance.

A magnificent line-up for the Festival feature, the Champion Chase, was outlined with Down Royal General Manager Mike Todd stating he was confident there would be perfect jumping ground for the two days of high class racing on October 30 and 31.

Don Cossack - the highest rated chaser in Ireland and the UK - is among the entries, while Nicholls has a very strong hand.

The champion trainer has won the Champion Chase four times - twice with the great Kauto Star - and has a trio of entries in the £140,000 showpiece including Rocky Creek, runner-up last season.

Todd added: "I am in regular contact with Paul and he will have runners in both the feature chases with Saphir Du Rheu his likely runner in the Grade Two Novice Chase."

Carberry - who has won the Down Royal Grade One twice, the 1999 inaugural running on Florida Pearl and last year on Road To Riches - attended on crutches having sustained a badly broken leg at Listowel earlier this season.

He said: "I think it could be next year's Cheltenham Festival before I'm back race riding."

The top jockey added: "Road To Riches had a slight setback - I'm not sure if he runs."

Apache Stronghold - owned by the Belfast-based Hunt family - is likely to contest the Grade Two Novice Chase although also holding an entry in the feature and could be one of several horses representing the owners.

Asked for one horse to follow, Carberry said: "Disko is a high class horse. He won a bumper first time out then finished runner-up in the Champion Bumper at Punchestown. Watch for him.

"I'll be playing catch-up as other jockeys will be riding the horses during this season."

Carberry was driven to yesterday's venue, the Harp Bar, by Johnny Burke, the retained jockey to leading owners Ann and Alan Potts.

Burke is hoping to ride Grand Jesture in the Champion Chase. The horse is trained by Henry De Bromhead for the Potts family.

Rising star Burke said: "He could run and would have every chance although he can be a bit quirky."

Burke advised that Shanahan's Turn is likely to run in the novice chase and the Galway Plate winner is one to follow.

Grand National winning jockey Mick Fitzgerald, now a broadcaster, said he had visited British champion trainer Paul Nicholls and he is in the process of sorting out his team for the Maze showpiece.

Todd also revealed the feature chase would be the fifth race on the Saturday super card.

He added: "The quality for the feature this year is outstanding.

"We have this year's Aintree Grand National winner Many Clouds and Don Cossack, rated the best chaser anywhere. I am talking to numerous trainers."

Matt Chapman has nothing but admiration for the course and said: "Down Royal deserves similar credit as the Curragh, Leopardstown and Punchestown. It's a truly proper racecourse and track.

"The private boxes and public facilities are superior to the majority of British courses."

Andrew McNamara has won the feature twice - on Beef Or Salmon in 2004 and The Listener in 2009 - and advised that his brother Robbie, who sustained severe injuries in a fall, was in exceptionally good form.

Belfast Telegraph


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