Racing: Imperial heads for cross-border prize

IMPERIAL CALL, who triumphed in the 1996 Gold Cup at Cheltenham, is to cross the border to run in Northern Ireland's richest chase - the pounds 100,000 Ulster Champion Chase at Down Royal on 6 November.

"We are excited about running Imperial Call at Down Royal for we have never been there at all,'' Sylvia Lane, racing manager for owners Lisselan Farm, said yesterday.

"The horse will be trained with this race in mind and running there certainly beats long-distance travelling for we have had to cross the sea for many of Imperial Call's outings."

In April, Imperial Call ended his season with an impressive victory over Florida Pearl and Dorans Pride in the Heineken Gold Cup at Punchestown. Walsh is likely to ride the Co Cork-trained 10-year-old at Down Royal.

"The horse is in great form and may make his seasonal debut in the Kerry National at Listowel in September," added Lane. "This is the plan at any rate but our main pre-Christmas target is the Ulster Champion Chase."

This year's Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, See More Business, has recently returned to Paul Nicholls's stable after a 10-week break and the Ditcheat trainer is considering sending the nine-year-old over for the Ulster event.

Other trainers who may have runners are Noel Chance (Looks Like Trouble), Willie Mullins (Florida Pearl) and Michael Hourigan (Dorans Pride).