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Royal Diamond up to the Challenge at Leopardstown

Royal Diamond will attempt to defy a Group One penalty when he lines up against five opponents in the Listed Challenge Stakes at Leopardstown on Thursday evening. Trainer and jockey Johnny Murtagh reports his tough seven-year-old gelding to be in great form ahead of his clash with El Salvador and Unaccompanied.

The son of King’s Best was in the care of Tommy Carmody last season when he followed a fine second in the Ebor with victory in the Irish St Leger. His victims that day included Fame And Glory, Brown Panther and Simenon.

He performed well in Dubai this spring and ran well in defeat in the Yorkshire Cup in May. He was beaten five lengths by a rejuvenated Ernest Hemingway in the Curragh Cup on his most recent start but the winner certainly looks to be on the upgrade.

Royal Diamond’s five opponents are headed by Dermot Weld’s popular dual-purpose mare Unaccompanied. She has been performing consistently well on the Flat and over jumps in recent seasons but comes here after a lengthy absence.

She is better known for her exploits over hurdles that include two Grade One victories. She has not been out since chasing home Hurricane Fly in the Istabraq Hurdle in December and will certainly come on for the run.

Aidan O’Brien’s El Salvador has been on the go since the spring and had a couple of lengths to find with Royal Diamond on Curragh form. He was not disgraced in the Ascot Gold Cup but was beaten in Listed company on his last start.

Jimmy Lambe’s Ulster Derby winner Sir Ector takes a big step up in class. He stayed on gamely to win by two and a half lengths but a line through third-placed Scatter Dice gives him a bit to find with the favourite.

Joseph Murphy’s The Giving Tree and David Wachman’s Love And Cherish complete the field with the race due off at 7.35pm.