All roads lead North for historic celebration
William Hill have underwritten this afternoon's celebration of 325 years of racing in the North by offering patrons free admission to Downpatrick -- where the sport was first introduced by royal decree in 1685.
A love affair with the National Hunt code in particular persists as strongly as ever in the region and leading stables, including those of Willie Mullins and Noel Meade, are represented as usual on an admittedly fairly modest jumping card.
A free pint of Carling awaits the first 325 people through the gates sporting Down colours and they could be raising their glasses to Cork-born Paul Townend, who has prospects of an early double aboard Black Rock Lake and Red Tiger.
Tom McCourt's consistent Black Rock Lake might have the measure of Noel Lawlor's Karkari in the opener, while the Mullins-trained Listowel bumper victor Red Tiger could then give weight and a beating to Cork-based Good Time Donie.
Willie Murphy's front-running Vinnie can complete a hat-trick under Barry Cash when tackling the larger obstacles this time in the William Hill Beginners Chase and the longer version of this event an hour later, should be within the scope of Meade's Accord Aris, before stable companion Jakros, runner-up at Tipperary to Another Chieftain, bids to secure swift compensation in the bumper for Nina Carberry.
Jumping fans are rather better catered for class-wise in Cork tomorrow when the successful association between Ruby Walsh and Tony Martin should yield another double on an equally sound surface, courtesy of Keelaghan and High Cian.
Keelaghan has been busy on the flat since defeating subsequent winner Fosters Cross for Ruby at Ballinrobe and they look primed to follow up in a similar race at the Mallow track, as both Schelm and Archie Boy appear to have gone off the boil somewhat.
In the frame on the level at Down Royal and Wexford, High Cian gained valuable jumping experience at Sligo when a close fifth to Double Seven and the champion jockey stays loyal to the High Chaparral gelding for the opening maiden hurdle.
The Stallion Owners Novice Hurdle that follows is more competitive and perhaps the best advice would be to give Takeyourcapoff another chance to make amends for a Listowel tumble when making a race of it with Ballyadam Brook.
That winner and Robert Power's mount were unable to contain that good mare Oilily on their most recent runs when second and fourth at Tipperary, but both a drop in class and the faster ground tomorrow will be a help to Jessica Harrington's charge.
Lively going proved no barrier to Mr Cracker when outjumping last Sunday's Limerick rivals on a sparkling debut over fences and Michael Hourigan's five-year-old is expected to repeat the dose here in the Stallion Farms Novice Chase.
The season's leading rider Andrew McNamara -- who won this race for the past two years on Sizing Africa and Catch Me -- takes over in the saddle from his keen rival Paul Carberry.
Christy Roche's Green To Gold can defy a mandatory 6lb penalty for Wednesday's smooth Punchestown success in the final leg of the Jackpot and Brian Nolan's Navan runner-up Fire Belt should step up a place now in the Paddy Power bumper.