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Talitha set to extend Listowel run

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Trainer Paul Deegan has formed a potent partnership with Chris Hayes, with a tally of 48 winners over the past five years. Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

Trainer Paul Deegan has formed a potent partnership with Chris Hayes, with a tally of 48 winners over the past five years. Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

Trainer Paul Deegan has formed a potent partnership with Chris Hayes, with a tally of 48 winners over the past five years. Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

Paul Deegan and Chris Hayes return to their happiest of hunting grounds today and are trusted to claim the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Fillies' Handicap with a fellow course specialist, Talitha Kum.

Deegan and Hayes have shown themselves to be an increasingly potent partnership this term, taking their tally of winners together to 48 over the past five years.

Both men are especially prolific at the riverside venue in north Kerry, where they boast better strike-rates than at any other track in the country.

In the same five-year period, Hayes has ridden 13 winners from 70 mounts there for a 19pc ratio, while Deegan's percentage works out at 23pc, six winners his return from 26 runners.

Talitha Kum is unbeaten at Listowel, scooting up by all of 10 lengths to break her duck over six furlongs at this festival as a juvenile, before returning last June to score by three lengths off a mark of 83 over a mile.

On that occasion, she broke desperately slowly and should never have had a prayer thereafter, but Hayes was excellent in gradually allowing her to find her feet. The manner in which she eventually strode clear was deeply impressive.

Talitha Kum subsequently went on to be second at Limerick off a career-high rating of 92, but she hasn't operated at quite the same level in her last few runs.

As a result, she has slipped back down to what looks a favourable mark of 87, so she appeals as nap material to extend her unbeaten record at the track to three in this afternoon's €18,000 mile contest. Crucially, she is drawn in stall one on the inside, which should make Hayes' job a bit easier.

Plenty of the other eight runners have genuine claims too, with Sophie's World, Surreal, Kanes Pass, Empress Toorah and Caliso Bay all coming here in decent form. However, none have quite so much in their favour as the selection today.

Deegan and Hayes also have a life in the juvenile fillies' mile maiden with the Bellewstown fifth Magic Of Christmas, but the one that stands out in that is Dermot Weld's debutante Summaya.

Pat Smulen's mount is an Azamour half-sister to the stable's progressive three-year-old Silwana, so the market will reveal plenty about what is expected of her from the firm that won this with the debutante Lanyard 12 months ago.

Jim Bolger's New Alliance might progress to take the seven-furlong equivalent, while Jessica Harrington's Polished Rock is fancied to have a big say on its handicap bow in the featured Lartigue Hurdle. This is a cracking edition of the €45,000 two-miler, with a raft of in-form four-year-olds like Orgilgo Bay, Mckinley, Indian Icon, Ridestan, Elishpour, Shutter Island and Landau among the 11 runners.

Polished Rock will have to be on its game to shake those up, but the suspicion is that he is potentially well treated.

A winner at Leopardstown and the Curragh on the Flat last year, he is rated 88 in that sphere, and he looked sure to be equally effective over flights when scoring at Gowran Park in June.

In a five-runner race, the Rock Of Gibraltar gelding accounted for Mizyen, The Plan Man, San Gabriel and Bog War, each of which has won since.

He hasn't quite been at his best in two starts since, latterly finishing seventh behind Mckinley at Galway, where Ridestan and The Plan Man were also in front of him.

As a result, Polished Rock gets in here off a first-time mark of 116 for just 10st 8lb under Robbie Power. If he runs to his best on his favoured fast ground, then, he would be expected to be very competitive off a mark like that.

Irish Independent