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Ulster Derby has big starring role


Champions: Ruby Walsh is confident his partnership with Ulster-owned Hurricane Fly can lead to yet more success

Champions: Ruby Walsh is confident his partnership with Ulster-owned Hurricane Fly can lead to yet more success

Champions: Ruby Walsh is confident his partnership with Ulster-owned Hurricane Fly can lead to yet more success

The Ulster Derby has received a double boost with news that the €100,000 showdown will be broadcast live on BBC television while Magners have also renewed their sponsorship deal.

It is the first time since 1994 that BBC Northern Ireland has televised the big race and means the Ulster Derby joins Down Royal's other showpiece contest, the JNwine.com Champion Chase, in being broadcast live on terrestrial television.

The Down Royal Festival feature, run in November, is broadcast live on Channel 4.

The two-day summer festival starts next Friday with an evening meeting, the Ulster Derby - which is the richest Flat race in Northern Ireland - being run the following day.

The BBC will have live coverage of three races on the Saturday, with the main event off at 3.45pm.

Among the guests will be former leading jockey Johnny Murtagh - now a trainer - who has won the Epsom Derby three times and the Irish Derby four times as well as over 100 Group One races.

The programme will also feature live coverage of the European Breeders Fund Coolmore Stud Ulster Oaks (4.15pm) as well as the Value Cabs Handicap (3.10pm).

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In addition to the live races BBC NI will be catching up with recently retired 20-times champion jockey AP McCoy.

Top local trainer Andy Oliver will also be featured.

Mike Todd, General Manager of Down Royal Racecourse, said: "I'm delighted the BBC are covering one of the highlights of the local sporting and social calendar.

"The Derby at Down Royal has a long and illustrious history since its creation in 1936.

"The legendary Lester Piggott won the race and the 2000 winner Media Puzzle went on to win one of the richest races in the world - the Melbourne Cup, 'the race that stops a nation.'"

"It is no surprise that we select the Magners Derby to be our feature race of our summer festival of racing.

"The mega €100,000 prize pot is guaranteed to attract many of this year's top runners and riders, and we expect thousands of race fans will come along."

The race is also celebrating the renewal of the longstanding support package from Magners Original Irish cider, confirming the brand as title sponsor for a further three years and renewing the pouring rights contract between Down Royal and Tennent's NI.

"We are delighted Magners has continued its support. It's a winning combination that will make for a great day out" he said.

Magners Brand Manager with Tennent's NI Eimhear Daly said: "The atmosphere at Down Royal is always electric, but never more so than on Magners Ulster Derby Day! We're all looking forward to an amazing occasion."

Meanwhile, Ruby Walsh believes Ulster-owned Hurricane Fly will be back.

The legendary jockey, Hurricane Fly's regular rider, is keen to see the Grade One world record holder race on in the autumn.

There were calls for the Willie Mullins-trained 11-year-old superstar - owned by Rose Boyd from Crossgar and Belfast's George Creighton - to be retired after finishing sixth in the French Champion Hurdle at Auteuil last weekend but Walsh feels that would be premature.

"I certainly wouldn't have any complaints if Willie decided to have a crack at next season with him," said Walsh. "I'd be delighted as he is still showing an appetite for the game."

Downpatrick stages a competitive card on Sunday.

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