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Robert is well remembered at Down Royal

By Ron McKnight

Down Royal stages the course's first fixture of the year this afternoon with a feature race remembering the Belfast businessman who became a major bookmaker, Robert McCoubrey, who sadly died last year.

Robert would have appreciated the open looking handicap chase. Blue Empyrean has been running consistently well and, having won at Naas most recently, looks the likely favourite.

Shrewdoperator won at Fairyhouse last weekend and runs again quickly but preference goes to Blue Empyrean, trained at Armagh by Keith Watson, while another local runner, Ardmillan, has place prospects.

Benarty Hill, trained at Newry by Liam Lennon, is another possible local winner if capable of accounting for Tiger Sam and Shanklys Dawn in the Down Royal Chase where Killare Castle seeks compensation, having fallen at the last when in front at Tramore last time.

North Of England trainer and former jockey, Kenny Johnson, sends a couple of runners from Britain for the meeting, including Under The Red Sky in the race.

The opening novice chase, despite just four runners, is a closely matched affair. Robin Des Mana had Blue Empyrean in third when winning at Clonmel while Bravissimo represents Champion trainer Willie Mullins and is the likely favourite.

Goose Man, trained by Tom Taaffe, improved on previous efforts to win at Navan last time and offers the value bet.

The Sean Graham Hurdle attracts a maximum field with Dermot Weld having a rare jumps runner in First Figaro with former champion jockey Paul Townend booked.

Falak, Celtic Rising and Speaker Connolly are the trio making most appeal with Falak, trained by Gordon Elliott, getting the vote.

Elliott could double up with Gun Digger in the Silks Hurdle with West Coast Time and Guided By You the dangers.

Our Boy Boru, Colwiston and Our Valentina are a trio of local runners in the Tote Hurdle with claims. However, Urbanist, which has been in good form, can claim the prize. Dorydalis finished runner up at the course last time and is taken to score in the bumper where the newcomers, notably the Mullins trained Harrie, along with Cairnhill, Well Set Up and Under Surveillance look the dangers.

SELECTIONS: 1.05 Goose Man, 1.40 Benarty Hill, 2.10 Blue Empyrean, 2.45 Falak, 3.20 Gun Digger, 3.50 Urbanist, 4.25 Dorydalis

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