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Tony Martin set to star on opening night

By Ron McKnight

Tony Martin is the trainer to follow at Down Royal's first evening fixture of the season.

The Meath handler has a strong hand throughout the card, including the locally-owned Twenty Four Years in the mares beginners chase.

The selection was given an excellent ride by Maxine O'Sullivan when runner-up at Kilbeggan, overcoming several jumping errors including a bad blunder four from home and was hampered prior to delivering her challenge and only just beaten.

Allowing for an improved jumping display, the mare - winner of a point to point at Templepatrick - can confirm placings with Waltz Legend (third) and the very talented amateur lady rider can be relied on to maximise the opportunity.

Ballychorus is a major danger and each way alternative while the locally-trained Shershewill always runs an honest race and again can gain a place.

Martin can also claim the handicap chase with Five O'Clock Tea which started favourite in the race won by Keep On Track at the course in February but was brought down in a melee four from home when travelling well and recorded success at Perth last month.

Keep On Track, trained in Ballymena by Ian Ferguson, put in an improved effort last time at the Punchestown Festival, only fading in the closing stages to fill third place in the four mile marathon cross-country contest.

However, bottom weight As De Pique was only beaten a head at Punchestown and if repeating that effort could be the main danger, while the consistent Indian Fairy has place prospects.

Course and distance winner Russian Regent from Gordon Elliott's stable looks the likely favourite.

Bay Of Freedom - ninth in the Cheltenham Festival bumper - can make a winning debut over hurdles in the opening maiden hurdle for trainer Peter Fahy despite a near maximum field.

Cecil Corbett, trained by Elliott, has run well on his last two starts at the Lisburn venue while New World is another worth consideration. Paul Carberry rides Our Sox for Martin.

Eshtiaal looks to have an ideal opportunity to follow up success on Monday at Ballinrobe in the handicap hurdle under a fixed penalty.

The Elliott-trained horse finished third on the flat at Chester prior to winning over hurdles on Monday and is a likely short priced favourite.

The JP McManus-owned Shutter Island shoulders top weight while Crystal Earth was beaten in a photo finish in the Ulster Cesarewitch at the track two years ago while the admirable Shake The Bucket - a regular on the all-weather at Dundalk - cannot be dismissed on his return to hurdles.

The Sony Xperia Handicap Hurdle is a wide open contest but Mustadrik, the mount of champion pony racing rider Jack Kennedy who registered his first victory on the course proper last week, could offer each way value with Replacement Plan and Encore Une Annee another duo worth consideration.

Colms Dream, Medinah, Shadow Play and Don Franco make most appeal in the long distance handicap hurdle with the last named taken to supply a locally-owned winner for the Draperstown-based Conway family.

Irish champion trainer Aidan O'Brien saddles the likely favourite Kalopsia in the concluding bumper with his daughter Sarah - who scored in a Ballinrobe bumper on Tuesday aboard Captain Barbossa - on board.

Shes Bankable, Glacial Drift, Wellington Road, Royal Plaza, Bellas Rock and the Stuart Crawford-trained And The New are the more notable newcomers and the latter could offer better value than the favourite.

DOWN ROYAL TIPS: 5.40 Bay Of Freedom 6.10 Eshtiaal 6.40 Mustadrik 7.10 Don Franco 7.40 Twenty Four Hours 8.15 Five O'Clock Tea 8.45 And The New

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