The Phoenix Stakes takes centre stage at the Curragh on Saturday, a Group 1 that has been dominated by Aidan O’Brien in recent years. O’Brien has won the race no less than 16 times since 1998, and 14 times this century. Notable winners include George Washington, Holy Roman Emperor, Mastercraftsman and Caravaggio.
The master of Ballydoyle is set to saddle four of the six runners in this year’s renewal, with his quartet headed by the Coventry third Sergei Prokofiev. He looked something out of the ordinary when winning a five-furlong minor event by seven and a half lengths at Navan earlier this year, and confirmed that promise when following up in a listed race over the same C&D in May. You could argue he was unlucky not to finish second in the Coventry at Royal Ascot last time, taking a keen hold early and having to weave his way through over two furlongs out; either way he’s an imposing colt that his excellent stable will continue to get more out of.
The Martyn Meade-trained Advertise finished a neck in front of Sergei Prokofiev in the Coventry, and has since given the form a boost by winning the July Stakes at Newmarket in good style. He was strong in the betting, and didn’t need to improve to resume winning ways in ready fashion, making smooth headway from halfway and produced to lead inside the final furlong. Advertise comes out top on Timeform weight-adjusted ratings following that effort, and is the type to continue to give a good account; his trainer has been very bullish in the lead up to this race and he looks the one to beat.
The race looks between those two, but the best of the remainder could prove to be So Perfect, who recorded her first pattern success in the Grangecon Stud Stakes at the Curragh last time. She benefited from the step back up to six furlongs that day, and is progressing nicely, so could make the requisite improvement on just her fifth career start.
The Phoenix Sprint Stakes is the supporting race on the card, and it has a slightly more competitive look to it. Unlike the Phoenix Stakes, Aidan O’Brien hasn’t dominated this race, but he did win it last year, and he is responsible for likely favourite Spirit of Valor. He has been running creditably in higher grade pattern races this season, not beaten far in the Lennox Stakes at Goodwood last time, and the drop back to six furlongs won’t be an issue; it’s worth noting that both of his wins have come when he has been able to dictate and there isn’t an abundance of pace on here.
Urban Beat is the most unexposed runner in the field and could pose the biggest threat. He has won both of his starts this season in good style, looking a pattern performer in the making when running away with a handicap over this C&D last time. Both his wins this year have come on heavy ground, though, and he will need to prove his effectiveness on a likely sounder surface.
Earlier on the card, Aidan O’Brien unleashes an interesting newcomer in the shape of Pink Dogwood. A sister to Irish Derby winner Latrobe – who is trained by Aidan’s son, Joseph – she is bred to come into her own over middle distances next year, but Latrobe himself wasn’t beaten far when finishing runner-up on his sole start at two. However, Lady Kaya made a most promising debut over six furlongs here in June, and she sets a pretty good standard (form has worked out well) with the extra furlong on Sunday likely to suit.