Swamp Fox bidding for another big handicap win
Ladbrokes Ireland Handicap Hurdle (Grade B) | 5yo+ | 2m | TG4/ATR
Swamp Fox, runner-up in the Guinness Galway Hurdle on his most recent start, will be seeking a second big handicap win at Listowel following an 11-length success in last year's Lartigue Hurdle.
The Joe Murphy-trained five-year-old, a four-time hurdles winner, is a versatile performer and heads the weights having gone up 7lb since running Tigris River to a neck at Galway last month.
Murphy said on Wednesday: "He's a genuine and tough sort whether over hurdles or on the Flat, but it will be a big ask for him with top weight on very testing ground. Johnny Barry is claiming 5lb and that will help."
No ground concerns for Lagostovegas
Lagostovegas has a good record in Kerry, winning three times at Killarney including on her most recent start last month, and trainer Willie Mullins is hoping the five-year-old will be able to transfer her Killarney form to Listowel.
He said of Ruby Walsh's mount: "She's in good form and hopefully Listowel will suit her just as well as Killarney. She's won on testing ground and should be okay on that score."
Mullins is also represented by Timi Roli and he said: "He's in on bottom weight and we're hoping the testing ground will bring his stamina into play."
Davids on the hat-trick trail
Davids Charm, the mount of Rachael Blackmore, is chasing a hat-trick after wins over longer trips at Killarney in June and at the Galway festival.
His trainer John Joe Walsh said: "The handicapper seems to be very fond of Davids Charm. He's gone up 16lb for his Galway win. Although he's dropping in distance, his stamina should be an advantage if he handles the heavy ground."
McConnell happy with Orgilgo Bay
Orgilgo Bay, winner of the Lartigue Handicap Hurdle at the festival three years ago, is without a win since, although he was off the track for almost two years before returning in April and there have been recent signs of a return to form.
His trainer John McConnell said: "He seems to be coming back to himself. It's taken a few runs, but I'm happy with him. He's got a nice low weight, a good 7lb claimer and the ground isn't a concern."
Tough ask for The Irregular
Denis Hogan, who combined the roles of trainer and rider to land this prize on Jack The Wire a year ago, will be hoping for a similar outcome with The Irregular on Thursday.
However, The Irregular, the winner of minor handicaps at Clonmel in December at and Kilbeggan on his most recent start, faces a huge task from 10lb out of the handicap.
Hogan said: "Being so far out of the handicap will make it tough for him and the ground won't be ideal. But he's a big, strong horse with a low weight and we decided to give him a shot at this big pot."
What they say
Frank Berry, racing manager to JP McManus, owner of Plinth, Western Boy, Timiyan and Boherbuoy
Plinth wasn't good enough in the Galway Hurdle but he has loads of experience and a lot will depend on how he handles the heavy ground. Western Boy never counted in the Galway Hurdle after making a bad mistake at the fourth. He has run well on the Flat since and is in good form. Timiyan was another to disappoint in the Galway Hurdle. He ran a bit better at Killarney last time, but a lot will depend on how he handles the ground. Boherbuoy lacks experience having had only two runs over hurdles. The ground is an unknown for him but he's in great form.
Tom Mullins, trainer of Top Ofthe Ra
He came out of his race at Killarney well and is in good form. He has a nice weight [9st 11lb] and I think he'll handle the ground, although I can't be sure.