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Ulster owners set for success at Down Royal Festival

By Ron McKnight

Several Ulster owners have high hopes of success at the two-day Down Royal Festival, which starts tomorrow.

The Sloan and Hunt families are major owners with quality horses.

Templepatrick-based Joe and Pat Sloan are major figures in the local equestrian and racing scene and their daughter Joanne is a very successful showjumper while also advising her parents on the purchase of young thoroughbreds for racing.

Joe Sloan, having been President of the former Northern Ireland Horse Show at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast, sponsors tomorrow's feature - the WKD Novice Hurdle - and the family will be represented in their own race by Hostile Fire, a four time winner on the flat when trained by Ed Giles and who won his maiden hurdle for Gordon Elliott at Fairyhouse in January.

The Sloan family also have The Storyteller making his debut in the first race tomorrow while Shadow Catcher is engaged in tomorrow's handicap chase and Saturday's feature hurdle and Grade Two Novice Chase with Hostile Fire also an entry in that race.

While all those mentioned are trained by Elliott, Larne handler Stuart Crawford will run the Sloan-owned Young Palm in tomorrow's beginners chase.

The Hunt family from Belfast - owners of the one of the largest independent chains of wine merchants in the province - have a high profile team of racehorses based with Navan trainer Noel Meade.

The high-class Monksland is due to make his chasing debut in the Bill Porter Beginners Chase tomorrow having been a top staying hurdler who won the WKD Hurdle in 2012 and also his bumper at what is the owners' local track - James Hunt is a member of the Maze management committee.

Bonny Kate is another of their entries in the beginners chase.

Snow Falcon or Officieux, owned by Mrs Patricia Hunt, are their entries in tomorrow's renewal of the £50,000 Grade Two WKD Novice Hurdle, won last year by Little King Robin.

Red Giant, fourth on his debut in a very competitive Punchestown bumper, could represent the family in Saturday's finale.

Ulster trainers are very well represented over the two days.

Crawford has regularly featured in the winners enclosure at the Festival and has entered a total of 10 horses this year.

"I'm still sorting out plans but Strongpoint is likely to run in the handicap chase (tomorrow). Now This Is It is a possible for Saturday's big hurdle race," he said.

The very successful local trainer, who has a large team in his care, has been ultra successful in bumpers at his local track.

"I have a few entered in the bumpers - Chitu could go for the winners bumper on the first day and A Touch Of Frost could make his debut," he said.

"Undisputed is entered both days and owned by my brother Steven who will ride him in whichever race he goes for."

Armagh trainer Keith Watson is another with numerous entries during the Festival including Galway flat winner Shamar which finished runner-up again on the flat at the Listowel Festival and is due to run in Saturday's big hurdle race.

Meanwhile, Irish Cavalier, O'Faolains Boy and Dynaste are non-runners for Saturday's feature, the £140,000 Grade One Champion Chase, reducing the field to seven. However Elliott said yesterday that superstar Don Cossack will run.

"He has come out of Punchestown in great form and definitely goes to Down Royal for the Champion Chase," he said.

Belfast Telegraph


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