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Walsh can be crowned king of the Castle at Down Royal

 

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Top Mark: jockey Mark Walsh has strong Down Royal claims

Top Mark: jockey Mark Walsh has strong Down Royal claims

Top Mark: jockey Mark Walsh has strong Down Royal claims

Down Royal gets the local season underway today with a good card and no shortage of runners with the going perfect. Admission is also free, courtesy of sponsor and course beer partner Molson Coors.

Mark Walsh is a notable jockey travelling to the Lisburn venue ahead of next weekend's Dublin Racing Festival.

Castle Oliver should reward the trip with Walsh partnering the Padraig Roche trained runner for the jockey's boss JP McManus in the Rated Novice Chase. Diamond Turf and Great Khan are the dangers.

The fixture attracts maximum fields in the majority of races and Iknowwhereiannow, Bridge Native, Midland Millie and De Bennete form the short list in the mares novice hurdle.

The first race appears something of a lottery.

Trainer Johnny Murtagh has a rare jumps runner with the JP McManus owned Baba Boom which could give the leading owner a double despite Mark Walsh being aboard the Edward O'Grady trained Time Goes By. Port Stanley, Enjoy D'Allen, Desire De Joie and Belfast Banter all warrant consideration.

Opposites Attract, a course winner last time, could follow up in the Rated Novice Hurdle. Fakir, Without Limits, Monus and Trevena could supply the threats.

I'm Not Alone gives the leading Irish owner another chance of a winner on the card. Trained by former top jockey Connor O'Dwyer, the selection finished third at Naas last time.

JP McManus also has Golden Sunset engaged with Omagh jockey Simon Torrens taking the mount while enjoying his best season to date. An Droichead Gorm, Drummullagh Rocky, Misty Adage and Disco Musik all have form to warrant consideration.

Brosna George, winner of the feature hurdle at the festival a couple of seasons ago, could supply a good bet in the handicap chase. The Arthur Moore trained horse has the benefit of Danny Mullins in the saddle. Rooster Byron, Cappacurry Zak and Cherokee Bill look the dangers.

The concluding bumper again is a competitive affair. Gordon Elliott's Hamundarson finished runner up on his sole start and is just preferred over Bombay Blue - twice second from two efforts.

Fitness Du Sud, trained by Willie Mullins, looks the likely favourite while newcomers Chrisaldy and Delvino should not be ignored.

√Irish raider Dune Of Pilat is difficult to oppose in the Bombardier Golden Beer Novice Stakes at Southwell.

Beaten just half a length when runner-up on his Dundalk debut in November, Joseph O'Brien's inmate was unsurprisingly well fancied to go one better at this same venue last month and duly obliged - readily getting the better of his chief market rival Balmari.

With opportunities to run at home limited at this time of year, Dune Of Pilat crosses the Irish Sea in a bid to follow up - and faces three opponents rated in the 70s and one horse who makes his racecourse debut.

It will be disappointing if O'Brien's charge cannot make the most of what looks a gilt-edged opportunity.

There are good grounds to believe Sandridge Lad can end a 16-race losing spell in the Betway Heed Your Hunch Handicap. John Ryan's four-year-old has been kept on the go since scoring at this venue last March, running on the turf during the spring and summer before reverting to the all-weather.

His form has been mixed - and as a result he is now 5lb below that last winning mark, even though his recent efforts have been pretty good.

Sandridge Lad has finished second in his last three starts and was sent off favourite on his first start of 2020 most recently. He can reward those who keep the faith on his latest visit to Nottinghamshire.

Fortissimo has yet to win from 10 starts, but Mark Johnston's four-year-old can finally get on the scoresheet in the Bombardier Handicap.

It is testament to the horse that the record-breaking trainer has hung on to him for so long, despite not getting a win on the board. His last effort was arguably his best - beaten only a length into third place at Wolverhampton.

Fortissimo returns nine days later off the same mark - and if the application of a visor for the first time brings about even a modicum of improvement, he should prove hard to beat.

SELECTIONS:

DOWN ROYAL: 1.20 Ba Ba Boom. 1.50 Opposites Attract. 2.20 De Bennette. 2.50 Castle Oliver. 3.20 I'm Not Alone. 3.50 Brosna George. 4.30 Hamundarson

LINGFIELD: 1.30 Secret Court, 2.00 Easter Gold, 2.30 Echo Watt, 3.00 Drewmain Legend, 3.30 Finnegan's Garden, 4.00 Kapga De Lily.

NEWCASTLE: 1.10 Methodtothemadness, 1.40 Maid In Manhattan, 2.10 Glittering Love, 2.40 Endlessly, 3.10 Dunly, 3.40 Seapoint, 4.10 Sultans Pride.

SOUTHWELL: 4.25 Fivehundredmiles, 4.55 DUNE OF PILAT (NAP), 5.25 Sandridge Lad, 5.55 Gulliver, 6.25 Bond Angel, 6.55 Fortissimo, 7.25 Mulzim.

DOUBLE: Dune Of Pilat and Sandridge Lad

Belfast Telegraph