King can tip the balance for Clara in Listowel feature
CONNOR KING'S booking on the John Kiely-trained Clara Bel La looks significant in the Croom House Stud Handicap on the opening salvo of Listowel's two-day festival tomorrow.
The €16,500 contest is the most valuable prize on offer at the Kerry venue and it is every bit as competitive as it should be.
Taglietelle, Gimli's Rock, Hisaabaat and Ibsen are all very capable opponents, while the likes of Ballyadam Brook and Exotic are also interesting.
Still, with the ground likely to ride on the slow side, Clara Bel La is fancied to have a big say under the excellent reigning champion apprentice.
An out-and-out stayer, the daughter of Accordion was placed off 83 in deep ground here in September, before failing to run her race off 86 in the Cesarewitch.
She returns now having been dropped back to 83, which appeals as being especially favourable when you factor in her rider's valuable 3lb claim.
Curragh handler Paul Deegan has an excellent record at Listowel, with five winners from 24 runners for 21pc representing his highest strike-rate at any track.
He sends three south tomorrow, including the former course maiden winner Talitha Kum in the mile handicap.
She is passed over in favour of John Joe Walsh's Ronan Whelan-ridden The Four Elms, but the other two are tipped to add to his impressive tally.
Achnaha tackles the mile auction maiden, having been campaigned mostly in esteemed company since last year.
Second to Dance With Another at the Curragh in October, she was then placed in Pattern company behind Mekong River and Vote Often, before finishing fifth in the Salsabil Stakes at Navan.
Dropped back to maiden company at Limerick next time, she lost little in defeat when splitting Afternoon Sunlight and Beyond Brilliance, both of which have won since.
Achnaha returned to Navan for the Group Three Blue Wind Stakes last time, but failed to run her race behind the Oaks fancy Tarfasha.
Obviously, there is a slight fear that she might be paying for her ambitious campaigning, but this is a very winnable race for her.
Dermot Weld's Wateed is probably the chief threat to the prospects of Wayne Lordan's mount, but he has developed an uncanny knack of eschewing similar opportunities.
Later on, Chris Hayes, who also partners Talitha Kum, could collect aboard Deegan's Mystic Princess.
The Manduro filly contests a pretty moderate three-year-old handicap, after being placed on two of her last three starts in deep ground at Leopardstown and Limerick.
She struggled over further at the Munster venue last time, but reverts to a mile again now, and has dropped in the ratings to a mark 65 from a high of 68. That should give her a live chance.
Aidan O'Brien could bookend the card with wins for Homeland under his champion jockey son Joseph and Marchese Marconi under his daughter Sarah, while the day's nap vote goes to Mags Mullins' Cut Loose in the bumper at Kilbeggan.
A brother to Backspin – a Punchestown bumper winner for Mullins en route to landing a Grade One novices' hurdle at Newbury and finishing fourth to Bobs Worth on its last start in the 2011 Neptune – Robbie McNamara's mount was one-paced in defeat behind Solita at Downpatrick three weeks ago.
That, though, was his first start since October, so he should strip fitter now.