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Selection Box is Christmas pick

By Jimmy Walker

Crossgar trainer Colin McBratney is a familiar face at Downpatrick and should be on the mark at the Christmas meeting today when he runs the appropriately named Selection Box in the Martinstown Opportunity Novice Handicap Hurdle.

An impressive all the way winner at the Down Royal Festival in November, Selection Box has also won at Downpatrick and in addition has been placed twice in the Ulster National over the course.

The plan is to run Selection Box in the Ulster National again in the spring and, although today’s race is over hurdles, McBratney’s charge will take all the beating despite carrying top weight.

Selection Box rarely runs a bad race and his win at Down Royal saw him lead from the first hurdle before going clear by three lengths at the last hurdle and winning by a length and a half from Clash Rebel.

A repeat of those tactics could well pay off at Downpatrick and I see him making all the running again with the most danger coming from Rookery Rebel, who was a winner at Down Royal, and Philip Rothwell’s Celtic Carol.

McBratney also has a good chance in the last, the Downpatrick Christmas Party Maiden Hunter Chase, with Send For Paddy.

Earlier in the day, Willie Mullins may be on the mark in the Hurricane Hurdle with the highly consistent Tawagg — Ruby Walsh in the saddle — the big danger coming from Psycho, trained by Tony Martin.

The Walsh and Mullins combination should go close in the opener, the EBF Maiden Hurdle, with Felix Younger.

Call Box, trained by Stuart Crawford in Larne, may be the one to beat in the Happy Christmas Handicap Hurdle with the danger coming from Thanks For Smoking, trained by Michael Cunningham.

Crawford had a superb double at Downpatrick on his last visit in the autumn.

Fairwood Massini could score for Rothwell in the Season’s Greetings Beginners Chase.

Shershewill can do the business in the Mares Maiden Hurdle.

TODAY’S DOWNPATRICK SELECTIONS: 12.05 Felix Younger 12.35 Tawagg 1.05 Selection Box 1.35 Call Box 2.05 Shershewill 2.40 Fairwood Massini 3.15 Send For Paddy

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