Ronan Whelan to collect Down Royal feature on Maggie Dalton

Salhooda looks the pick in Ulster Oaks

Trainer Jim Bolger looks the man to follow at Down Royal.

Today's €100,000 Magners Ulster Derby at Down Royal is the weekend feature in Ireland and while Maggie Dalton might be the least experienced of the 14 starters, she could be progressive enough to score for champion apprentice Ronan Whelan.

The season after lifting the apprentice title is always crucial to any rider and Whelan’s 2013 campaign began with a bang in April when Custom Cut landed the Group Three Gladness Stakes. Up to last night the young Monasterevin jockey was on seven winners for this term and a major handicap pot like this would be a significant boost.

Trainer Jim Bolger hasn't scored in the North's most valuable flat race since Citizen Edward memorably dead-heated a dozen years ago but Maggie Dalton is an intriguing starter on just her fourth career start.

The Mr Greeley filly won a decent maiden at the Curragh before returning to HQ to chase home Majenta last time and in a field of hardy handicap stalwarts she does represent something of an unknown quantity. Whelan’s claim can only help too.


Bolger uses Dylan Robinson's 7lb claim on another four-year-old filly, Fionnuar, in the €35,000 Ulster Oaks and the daughter of Teofilo is sure to be fancied on the back of a wide-margin success at Leopardstown on her last start.

Major task
The three-year-old Salhooda faces a major task against older horses here but Dermot Weld's filly should be much happier on faster ground than the surface she won over at Ballinrobe last time. It's also important to remember how she started favourite for the Cheshire Oaks last month when she didn't help her chances by slipping at the first bend.

Weld's Manhattan Swing holds a major shout in the concluding maiden given an 85 rating but the gelding was well beaten at Navan recently and now that he is upped in trip John Oxx's Leopardstown runner-up Shouranour looks a better option.

On official figures, the son of Lawman has something to find but Point Piper was the only one to accelerate past him over a mile last time and he looks to be a straight-forward type.

Tomorrow's National Hunt action at Gowran sees another unexposed mare in Ratheniska take on more experienced types in a maiden hurdle but Barry Geraghty's mount, a half-sister to the high-class chaser, Burton Port, looks a significant runner.

Nina Carberry reported to Tom Taaffe she believed Ratheniska to be capable of landing a winners bumper after she won her debut at Wexford last month but the trainer is pitching her straight into jumping, and in a race where the hugely frustrating Champagne Agent represents something of a standard.

Salesin enjoyed fast ground on his last start over fences at Roscommon and can translate that level of form back over flights in the featured handicap hurdle tomorrow while Hurricane Ridge is another who should relish the conditions.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column