McConnell's exciting Clonard Street is in high demand
JOHN McCONNELL, one of the most upwardly mobile young trainers to emerge during the recession, finds himself in the enviable position of deciding whether to stick or twist with his exciting two-year-old prospect Clonard Street.
Acquired for €9,000 at Tattersalls in September, the Archipenko colt defied his modest price tag to thwart Sheikh Mohammed's €160,000 purchase Prologue and Moyglare Stud's choicely bred Spryt to make a successful debut in the mile maiden at Galway last Saturday.
It was a taking performance that further confirmed the prowess of a man who has belied the inclement economic climate to make a name for himself as a shrewd dual-purpose handler.
McConnell, who is based in Stamullen, Co Meath, quipped in the Ballybrit winners' circle that Clonard Street might soon sport the colours of one of Flat racing's latest oil-rich Qatari benefactors.
It isn't that outlandish a proposition, though there is the hint of a more wily salesman about his latest comments in relation to the Rockview Racing Club-owned juvenile.
"The owners don't need to sell, but if the right offer came along, I suppose any horse is for sale," McConnell (right) said yesterday. "We've had lots of enquiries and it's ongoing. There has been interest from Hong Kong and places like that. We'd be delighted to keep him, but if he does get sold, it would be good business.
"At the moment, we're just training him as though he's staying and we'll see where we end up. There aren't really any winners' races or novice races for him in Ireland. There is the Group Three at Leopardstown on Irish Champions Weekend and then there's the Beresford at the Curragh. There is also a Listed race in Haydock in early September, so those are the three races we're looking at."
Orgilgo Bay has been McConnell's main flag-bearer to date. He was just thwarted by Maxim Gorky at Galway last Friday and his trainer has a Listowel target in mind now en route to a possible return for the big race in the west next year.
"There are lots of possibilities. We might go back on the Flat with him or there is a four-year-olds-only hurdle at Listowel in September," he said.
"It would be nice to think that next year he could be going for a big handicap like the County Hurdle at Cheltenham in March or the Guinness Galway Hurdle in a year's time."
Meanwhile, the possible return of Dermot Weld's one-time Derby favourite Free Eagle is one of the eye-catching strands to emerge from the latest entry stage for next month's inaugural Irish Champions Weekend.
Last seen finishing second to Australia at the corresponding fixture at the Foxrock venue in 2013, the exciting High Chaparral colt has been put in the KPMG Enterprise Stakes on September 13. He also still holds an entry in the card's showpiece Irish Champion Stakes, but the 10-furlong Group Three might be a more realistic option.
Weld has put his Royal Ascot victor Mustajeeb – also in at Leopardstown next week – in a mile Group Two on the same day, with top-class sprinters Sole Power, Maarek, Gordon Lord Byron and Chicquita also given options at the two-day festival that will climax at the Curragh on September 14.