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Tony McCoy is all set to give Down Royal Festival a massive boost

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Festival fever: Grand National-winning jockey, and Channel 4 presenter, Mick Fitzgerald (centre), with Down Royal general manager Mike Todd and Miss Northern Ireland Rebekah Shirley at yesterday’s launch of the Down Royal Festival, Ulster’s richest race meeting

Festival fever: Grand National-winning jockey, and Channel 4 presenter, Mick Fitzgerald (centre), with Down Royal general manager Mike Todd and Miss Northern Ireland Rebekah Shirley at yesterday’s launch of the Down Royal Festival, Ulster’s richest race meeting

Festival fever: Grand National-winning jockey, and Channel 4 presenter, Mick Fitzgerald (centre), with Down Royal general manager Mike Todd and Miss Northern Ireland Rebekah Shirley at yesterday’s launch of the Down Royal Festival, Ulster’s richest race meeting

Tony McCoy won one of the big races at the Down Royal Festival 12 months ago and hopes are high that the 19-times champion jockey may be back for this year's event which starts a fortnight today.

McCoy is having the season of his life with 150 winners already on the board in his pursuit of the magical 300 mark which has never before been achieved in a single season.

The 40-year-old Ulsterman is currently ruled out with a shoulder injury.

"I'm still very sore as a result of the fall I had at Worcester last week and feel I need a few more days or so before I'm back riding," said McCoy, whose boss, the leading owner JP McManus, has several Down Royal entries.

Down Royal general manager Mike Todd would love to see McCoy back at the €430,000 Festival, launched in Belfast yesterday.

"AP McCoy travelled over last year and we are hoping with top JP McManus-owned horses entered he may be back this year," he said.

"This will be an adrenalin fuelled two days of racing, with an incredibly high standard of entry."

McCoy won the Novice Hurdle last year on Jezki, the winner of this year's Champion Hurdle.

The prize pot over the two days is a whopping €430,000, with the feature race, the JNwine.com Champion Chase, worth €140,000 to the winner. Among the star-studded entries for what is the UK's first Grade One steeplechase of the season is last year's Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Bob's Worth, which was bred in Fermanagh.

Jim Nicholson, Down Royal chairman and sponsor of the feature, joked: "I have found it cheaper to sponsor the race rather than try to win it!

"I bought a horse to try and win the inaugural running but afterwards thought that sponsorship is a cheaper option!" added the longstanding sponsor of the Saturday super chase.

The Down Royal Festival, which takes place on Friday, October 31 and Saturday November 1, was officially launched at the Harp Bar in Belfast yesterday.

A guest panel comprising former Grand National winning jockey and now Channel 4 presenter Mick Fitzgerald, top trainer Noel Meade and ATR presenter Matt Chapman joined Down Royal chairman Nicholson and general manager Todd.

Fitzgerald said: "The big chase is an ideal opportunity to get the season under way. The Down Royal meeting is a wake-up call to other tracks and is a very fair course and warrants the high profile entry in the feature."

Belfast Telegraph