Preview Downpatrick 20th Dec

Wed 19th Dec 2012, 13:10

Despite the recent wet spell, Downpatrick is set to stage a six-race all hurdles card on Thursday, with a really good renewal of the Giltspur Scientific Christmas Hurdle the pick of the action.

Old favourite Donnas Palm has been plying his trade over fences of late but he is a classy performer in this sphere when putting his best foot forward.

However, he comes up against smart four-year-old Darroun and Willie Mullins' grey will be expected to build upon a promising juvenile campaign by going on to bigger and better things this term.

Racing begins at 12.55 with the INH Stallion Owners EBF Maiden Hurdle where Mullins appears to hold excellent claims again, this time with Raise Hell, who arrives on the back of his hurdling debut second at Thurles.

He looks to have been found a decent opening here, although Back Off Mate is going the right way and should ensure this isn't all one way traffic.

Treat Yourself has been in splendid form, chalking up two wins at Gowran Park, and he should prove hard to beat as he bids to land the hat-trick in the Martinstown Opportunity Novice Handicap Hurdle.

The first division of the Have An Abba Christmas Handicap Hurdle is a tricky race for punters to get a handle on, with only Schindler's Pearl coming into this on the back of a solid last-time-out showing, finishing third at Cork.

The second division is another trappy affair, although a return to his best form would certainly give Vapiano every chance, while Daytime Dreamer has been running well on the Flat and isn't too badly treated returning to this code.

The concluding Bet With The Bookies Maiden Hurdle sees the wraps taken off French import Un Beau Roman and he is certainly one to note in the betting ahead of his first starts on these shores.

GRAND NATIONAL - The Northern Challenge

The Sue Smith-trained Auroras Encore was the last northern-trained horse to win the Grand National back in 2013 but recent victories for that part of the country have been thin on the ground since the likes of Lucius, Rubstic and Hallo Dandy in the late 70s early 80’s showed that steeplechasing was in a healthy state north of the Watford Gap with the likes of Gordon W Richards, Denys Smith, Arthur Stephenson, Peter Easterby and Jimmy Fitzgerald capable of holding their own against their southern and Irish counterparts.