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Emcon to score for McNamara and Austin on northern foray

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Incredibly, it’s nine years since Andrew McNamara guided Newmill to Queen Mother Champion Chase glory.

Incredibly, it’s nine years since Andrew McNamara guided Newmill to Queen Mother Champion Chase glory.

Incredibly, it’s nine years since Andrew McNamara guided Newmill to Queen Mother Champion Chase glory.

Andrew McNamara can warm up for his big-race mount on Hidden Cyclone next week with a win aboard Emcon, his sole booking at Downpatrick today.

Incredibly, it's nine years since McNamara guided Newmill to Queen Mother Champion Chase glory.

While he has bagged plenty more big races since - including an Irish Champion Hurdle, the Hennessy Gold Cup and Grand National - the long-legged Limerick man has yet to record another Cheltenham Festival win.

Last year's Ryanair Chase runner-up Hidden Cyclone is possibly his best chance of doing so next week, and he can get in the right frame of mind aboard Willie Austin's Emcon in today's mares' maiden hurdle.

In truth, this two-and-a-quarter-miler isn't a great race.

Arthur Moore's hurdling debutant Dark Sunshine is possibly one of the nap selection's more interesting rivals, having run nicely to be fourth in a Punchestown bumper.

However, Emcon's overall profile is the most impressive. The daughter of Vinnie Roe won a bumper at Cork in November, and then tired late on when second to Killeena House first time up over flights at Navan.

That was over two-and-a-half miles, so the drop in trip here could prove crucial. Later on, Ardmillan reverts to the same distance when he tackles the Martinstown Opportunity Chase.

Stuart Crawford's top-weight has never won over shorter than two-and-a-half, but he is the best horse on duty in this.

A blunder four-out cost him when he finished third at Down Royal last month, so he is fancied to atone for that now under Anthony Fox.

Gordon Elliott and Bryan Cooper should have little trouble taking what is a weak opening maiden hurdle with the generally disappointing Akorakor, while the excellent Co Meath handler ought to claim the bumper with his promising Nina Carberry-ridden, Cork runner-up Alberta.

Barry Geraghty is another who can make the journey from the Royal County pay when he partners Edward O'Grady's Jumptoconclusions in the handicap hurdle.

The JP McManus-owned six-year-old has been running well, and the form of his recent Fairyhouse fourth has been franked a couple of times since.

Irish Independent