Timeform: This 6/1 shot could be the one to crack Melon at Down Royal

Our racing boffins look ahead to a huge day’s racing in Northern Ireland…


Blue WKD – the drink of choice for 18-year-old girls and Luke Chadwick (fact: I once bought him one) – and one made by the sponsors of Friday’s Grade 2 hurdle at Down Royal at 1.50pm.

According to a spokesman for the firm, “WKD is an iconic brand, launched in 1996, and its innovative flavour and identity resonates with racegoers here”, which does make you wonder slightly about the direction in which jumps racing could be heading.

Regardless, the race looks a good one, and it sees the return of Melon. No innuendos here in case the sexism police get diverted from Westminster, but what we do have is a horse who was touted as the next big Willie Mullins-trained hurdler after winning on debut by 10 lengths.

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He was unlucky to bump into an on-song Labaik in the Supreme and then shaped best when a length second to stablemate Cilaos Emery in the Champion Novices’ Hurdle at Punchestown when last seen.

While Melon looks the one to beat, four of his five rivals have race fitness on their side, including stablemate Coquin Mans. He caught the eye when second to Jezki in the Istabraq Hurdle at Tipperary last month and is respected despite his penalty, for all that his future might lie over further (has won over 3m).

Tellthemnuttin and Wakea both have a bit to find on Timeform ratings, and a bigger threat to Melon could be Mick Jazz. He beat Cilaos Emery in a listed novice at Punchestown in February, but missed the rest of the season after being found lame on the morning of the County Hurdle. If back on song, he rates a big danger.

There’s an arty-farty battle in the Grade 3 mares’ novice hurdle at 1.15pm, as Mystic Theatre takes on Classic Theatre – the biggest middle-class stand-off since the Natural History Museum locked horns with the Science Museum on Twitter.

This match-up should be pretty one-sided, however, with Mystic Theatre coming into Friday’s race on the back of a five-timer (four hurdles and one bumper). She won a listed event at Gowran Park last time by 10 lengths from Polar Present with plenty in hand and will go on improving.

Creation and Lesley Dawn both remain with potential, however, while recent Galway winner Just Janice should also ensure that this is no penalty kick for Willie Mullins’ mare.

Elsewhere on the card, Poli Roi looks the pick of the Gordon Elliott-trained trio in the opening maiden hurdle at 12.40pm, and the one to beat as a result.

I would normally have more chance of winning the lottery than solving the 20-runner handicap hurdle at 2.25pm, but the step back up in trip looks sure to suit Swingbridge – who only narrowly failed at Thurles in his bid to win four on the bounce – and he’s worth siding with once more.

Mount Beckham is Timeform top-rated in the handicap chase at 3.35pm, but the horse’s name shouldn’t be taken as an instruction, while the closing bumper at 4.10pm was won by Joey Sasa last season and Tombstone 12 months before that.

The last-named returns to the track for the beginners’ chase at 3pm and, though not always the most resolute when asked to battle, he could prove too classy for the likes of Gilt Shadow, who was unlucky at Navan last time, and Midnight Escape, who shaped well at Galway last month.

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