Europe’s first Group 1 two-year-old race of the season looks set to be a fascinating renewal as 10 juveniles go forward for Sunday’s Keeneland Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh.
Royal Ascot winners Buratino, trained by Mark Johnston, and the Aidan O’Brien trained-Washington DC head the potential line up after the latest forfeit stage on Tuesday with Johnston also represented by Sixth Sense and O’Brien’s quest for a 14th win in the race is aided by Air Force Blue and Painted Cliffs.
There is a strong British entry for the race in addition to Buratino, as William Haggas has left in two-time winner Raucous, David Brown’s Tribesman is also among the 10 and Gay Kelleway has booked Irish champion jockey Pat Smullen for Zebstar. The last British trained winner of the race was Princely Heir trained by Mark Johnston in 1997.
Kelleway said; “Zebstar’s in good form. Sunday will be a massive step up for him obviously but the race he won at Newmarket has really worked out well and a lot of winners have come out of it. His work has been very good and whether he’s up to Group 1 level or not we’ll see but the owners are very sporting and want to have a crack at it. I think he’ll go on any ground but the reason we kept him off firm was he got such bad shins after first time out he just wasn’t ready to go back on firm ground again.”
David Wachman’s Grangecon Stud Stakes winner Most Beautiful, who runs in the colours of Irish Rugby legend Ronan O’Gara, is the only filly left in the field, which is completed by Jessica Harrington’s GAIN Railway Stakes runner-up Rockaway Valley.
Trainer Eddie Lynam holds a strong hand in the 17 entries for Sunday’s Group 3 Qatar Racing Club Phoenix Sprint Stakes with Anthem Alexander, Balmont Mast, Byzantium and For Del Oro all standing their ground in the race.
Evanna McCutcheon’s Group 1 winning stable star Maarek is the highest rated of the Irish horses that remain in contention and again the British challenge is a strong one with David Lanigan’s Royal Ascot winner Interception and Richard Fahey’s Eastern Impact, who was third in the July Cup on his penultimate start, among the 17.
The seven-race card due off at 2.20pm will also feature a packed programme of free entertainment for children including arts and crafts workshop, bouncy castles, face painters and special appearances by some very well known cartoon characters, while the Newbridge Community Band will perform in the main enclosure.