The Phoenix Stakes, which is staged at the Curragh racecourse, is a six furlong Group One contest for two year-olds that gives racing fans a chance to see some of the sprinting stars of the future. Our Phoenix Stakes Tips will be live on the site in August.
However, the race should really be known as the ‘Aidan O’Brien Stakes’ with the powerful Ballydoyle handler landing this prize a staggering sixteen times since 1996!
That means that during that twenty-year period Aidan O’Brien has only failed to win the Phoenix Stakes four times – remarkable!
As well as the key trainer trend, it might also pay to note that the last UK-based stable to win the race was Mark Johnston back in 1997, while a massive fourteen of the last sixteen winners finished either first or second in their last race.
So, it goes without saying that anything the O’Brien camp run should be respected. He’s sure to be mob-handed but jockey bookings nearer the time will give us more of a clue on which are his more fancied runners, with whichever horse Ryan Moore, who rode last year’s O’Brien winner (Sioux Nation), surely being their main hope.
Let’s take a look at some of the potential runners.
As mentioned, the Mark Johnston yard were the last non-Irish yard to land this race and even though that came back in 1997 there is every chance they will send a runner (or two) over. At this stage they’ve Natalie’s Joy and Blown By Wind entered. The last-named is an experienced two year-old having already had six career runs at the time of writing. He’s won three times and was a fair sixth in the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot. He sets a fair standard but is starting to look a tad exposed and has fallen short when stepped into Group company.
However, their lesser exposed Natalie’s Joy could have more to offer back over six furlongs. She was sent off a short-priced favourite for the Chesham Stakes over seven furlongs at Royal Ascot but got tired over that seven-furlong trip. She’s clearly held in high regard to be sent off as the market leader that day, while prior to that Ascot flop she bolted-up at Goodwood on debut by six lengths over this trip. Being a filly, she’ll also get a handy three pounds from the males in the race.
Right, now onto the O’Brien army.
We’ll know nearer the time about his final runners but at this stage he’s over twenty horses entered so let’s pick out a handful that have already caught the eye on the track.
Land Force is a proven course and distance winner that will certainly be one of his more experienced two year-olds with five runs already. He was only just touched-off (third) in the Group Two Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot in June and backed that up with a smooth success at Tipperary in a Listed race a few weeks later. He’s won on heavy and good-to-firm ground so looks a versatile juvenile in terms of the ground and would certainly be one for the shortlist from the O’Brien bunch.
Sergei Prokofiev is another horse that performed well at Royal Ascot after running a solid third in the Coventry Stakes to Calyx. The form of that race looks solid with the winner looking very useful. That day Sergei Prokofiev seemed to just get slightly tapped for toe a few furlongs out which allowed the winner to get first run. However, he stayed on well in the final stages to suggest there is a lot more to come from this colt. Prior to Ascot he was an easy Listed winner at Naas and looks well up to this rise in grade.
Van Beethoven landed the Group Two Railway Stakes over this course and distance on the final day of June so with that proven form at the track and trip he’s another of the O’Brien runners to have on your radar. He was a running-on fourth in the Windsor Castle Stakes at Royal Ascot this season too but that five-furlong trip seemed plenty sharp enough for him so the return to six furlongs here is a huge plus – his form to date over six furlongs reads first, second, first!
Fairyland is yet another past course and distance winner and another O’Brien runner that finished third at Royal Ascot. She landed the bronze medal in the Albany Stakes back in June but was beaten less than a length that day. She did well to come out on top on her group that day and had some useful fillies in behind that day too. If running here she’s another that will also get the handy three pounds fillies’ allowance.
Gossamer Wings was runner-up in the Queen Mary at Royal Ascot in June but the way she ran on over that five furlong trip suggests this step up to six furlongs will suit. She’s tried the trip once before and was a solid third over this course and distance, so we know the track is fine too.
So Perfect is the final O’Brien runner to note. She was just behind her stablemate – Gossamer Wings – when fourth in the Queen Mary Stakes in June but has since franked that form by winning the Group Three Grangecon Stakes over this course and distance in early July. She’s won on soft ground in the past but as her pedigree suggests this US-bred filly has also shown a love for much quicker conditions.