Ruby set to make Boston Bob sparkle in Champion Chase
Ruby Walsh and Boston Bob can shine when a high class eight-runner field battles it out in the Down Royal Festival feature, the £140,000 JNwine.com Champion Chase.
The first Grade One of the campaign will see British champion trainer Paul Nicholls go for a fifth victory in the race, Rocky Creek posing a major threat to Boston Bob's chances.
And the rich history of this great race is illustrated by the fact that two of Nicholls' JNwine.com wins have come courtesy of the great Kauto Star, ridden by Ruby Walsh on both occasions.
Rocky Creek has had little racing, running just three times last season - finishing runner-up in the Hennessy Gold Cup, filling second at Cheltenham and concluding the campaign by finishing fifth in the Aintree Grand National.
Last season's British champion trainer Nicky Henderson has his first runner at the track with Ma Filleuele.
The grey mare - and youngest in the field at just six years old - has been installed ante post favourite.
The British challenger has a 7lbs mares allowance and is partnered by Daryl Jacob, former Nicholls stable jockey who won the feature on Kauto Stone - the Star's brother - in 2012.
Ma Filleule finished a runner-up at the Cheltenham Festival before ending last term by winning the Topham Trophy over the Aintree fences.
Gigginstown House Stud - Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary's racing operation - is doubly represented with First Lieutenant and Road To Riches.
The former, trained by Mouse Morris, has twice been placed in the big race but always appears a better horse in the spring although the trainer is hoping for third time lucky having abandoned plans to travel to Weatherby today.
Road To Riches won the Galway Plate prior to being just denied by a head by Sizing Europe at Gowran.
Irish champion trainer Willie Mullins is also doubly represented with Boston Bob and On His Own, the pair owned by Graham and Andrea Wylie who have won the majority of principal prizes in chasing in the UK and Ireland.
Boston Bob concluded last season by winning the Punchestown Gold Cup after taking the Melling Chase at Aintree and is the preferred mount of Ruby Walsh while former champion jump jockey Paul Townend is aboard On His Own, an unlucky runner-up in this year's Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Realt Mor - owned by the Sloan family from Templepatrick, sponsors of yesterday's WKD Hurdle feature race, and trained by Gordon Elliott who sent out last year's surprise winner Roi de Mee - is unraced since November last year at Navan when a creditable third to Flemenstar in a two mile chase and the step up in distance should suit the local horse.
Tammys Hill, trained in Newry by Liam Lennon, cannot be ignored despite the winner of this year's Cheltenham Festival Foxhunters taking a massive leap in class.
Connections ensured their stable star got a run in advance of today when winning over hurdles at Cork with Andrew Lynch on board and the top rider will now be more familiar with the horse.
Willie Mullins won the inaugural running of the Down Festival feature in 1999 with Florida Pearl and can collect a second Nicholson Chase with Boston Bob.
Road To Riches' connections had the option of the easier assignment in the novice chase but Noel Meade has opted for the Grade One event and has Paul Carberry in the saddle, the top jockey having scored in the first running on Florida Pearl.
Road To Riches is the main danger to the selection while the youngster and favourite Ma Filleule should be involved in the finish in what is the best renewal of the JNwine.com Champion Chase in recent times.
The chief support to the feature, the Powers Irish Whiskey Chase, has attracted four quality contenders for the £50,000 prize.
Nicholls has made the race his own, winning the last six renewals, and has favourite Wonderful Charm in today's contest.
The Somerset handler got a winning prep run into the horse at Newton Abbot earlier this month.
Don Cossack was entered in the big race but Elliott sticks with novice company following success last time at Punchestown.
Don Cossack had previously filled fourth behind Carlingford Lough at Punchestown in April.
Carlingford Lough won the Galway Plate in 2013 with Tony McCoy aboard but Mark Walsh is a more than able deputy and the JP McManus horse gets the vote.
Ireland's leading jumps owner McManus launches a four-horse assault on the Billecart-Salmon Handicap Hurdle, the most complex contest on today's card.
Stocktons Wing, trained by Charles O'Brien, gets the vote, with JP's Waxies Dargle and Roll Out It also holding claims.
Elliott, trainer of the latter, also has a total of four engaged including the locally-owned Shadow Catcher, an excellent fourth to Ted Veale at last year's Cheltenham Festival. Top weight Art Of Payroll was a good second at Punchestown on his last start and enters calculations.
Bay Hill, Atan and Tarabiyn look the principal trio in the opening Value Cabs juvenile hurdle.
Bay Hill, trained by Christy Roche, gets the selection having landed a gamble when scoring last time at Gowran.
The Tony Martin-trained Velvet Maker finished an excellent third to Valtour at Navan in December and holds the best form in the Tayto Hurdle while Officer Cadet won a bumper at the course last time.
Former point to pointer, Kanesh, a Downpatrick winner last time, looks the pick of the seven entered in the Rainbow Handicap Chase.
Meade has won the concluding bumper three times in recent seasons and his Rock Of Glenstal, owned locally by John Corr, appears the form pick.
A great day's racing is in store with Boston Bob the tip for the showpiece.