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Stick with Principle to land major Ulster National prize



General consensus: Gordon Elliott’s General Principle is favoured at Downpatrick

General consensus: Gordon Elliott’s General Principle is favoured at Downpatrick

�INPHO/Bryan Keane

General consensus: Gordon Elliott’s General Principle is favoured at Downpatrick

Maximum fields prevail in all but one of the races on Ulster Grand National day at a behind-closed-doors Downpatrick with the feature now sponsored by local company Randox Health.

Trainer Gordon Elliott made an original bulk entry in the £50,000 race and has opted to run six with General Principle, winner of the Irish Grand National in 2018, the choice for tomorrow's big race.

The horse, which started his career winning a Kirkistown point-to-point, has failed to score since winning the big Fairyhouse race and has subsequently dropped a stone in the ratings, however hinted towards a return to his best with placed efforts on his last two starts.

Two previous winners of the feature, Poorman's Hill and last year's victor Amaulino, again turn out but have shown little in the interim. The Red Menace, a course winner, carries top weight and Irish champion trainer Willie Mullins has Ifyoucatchmenow, a Punchestown winner last time engaged, but it's difficult not to look beyond other Elliott entries for dangers.

The Meath trainer has booked Rachael Blackmore for Cheb De Kerivinou and along with Gun Digger they look the threats to their stable companion.

Henry Brown, Vinnie Is Busy, Hesamanofhisword and Barnaviddaun form the shortlist in the opening Red Mills Auction Hurdle, while the high-class The Very Man gets the vote in the WKD Hurdle.

The Elliott-trained Road To Dubai finished third at the course in August to Darver Star, who filled third in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham. Quantamental, Monus and Texard, also representing Elliott, hold similar claims.

Locally-trained pair Walking In Memphis and Benefit North have claims in a competitive handicap hurdle.

However, Accidental Rebel, Bread And Butter and Hell On Earth appear to have been competing at a higher level while JP McManus is doubly represented by Kilmurray and Odds And Evens.

The McManus-owned Golden Sunset, with Omagh jockey Simon Torrens aboard, won on his penultimate start at the Maze and should relish the testing going in the Tote Chase.

The locally-trained Drummullagh Rocky also won at Down Royal in December in similar conditions and along with Solar Heat and The Trigger look the threats.

Derrylin trainer David Christie is enjoying a purple patch in hunter chases. On The Sod, unbeaten in his three points efforts, is taken to keep the winning run going but must account for Longhouse Music and Complete Sizing.

Ballyadam, winner of a Portrush point-to-point last year and sold for £330,000, indicated the money was well spent with a good debut for new connections at Navan and looks capable of opening his account in the finale to supply Elliott with a great day.

The Henry de Bromhead-trained Yousayitsbest, with Patrick Mullins booked, is a points winner sold for £220,000 and making his track debut.

Ballela To Milan is a notable newcomer from Banbridge trainer Gerry Cosgrave, who taught two Cheltenham winners.

SELECTIONS: 1.40 Barnaviddaun, 2.10 The Very Man, 2.40 Hell On Earth, 3.10 General Principle (nap), 3.40 Golden Sunset, 4.10 On The Sod, 4.40 Ballyadam (double).

Belfast Telegraph