Group one action returns to the Curragh on Saturday afternoon for the latest renewal of the Keeneland Phoenix Stakes with some of the best juveniles in the business going head-to-head, writes Jack
Five will go to post with some star two-year-olds from both sides of the Irish Sea looking to take home the €300,000 purse and become the latest succeed in this top class contest, previously won by the likes of Advertise, Fasliyev and Caravaggio.
The biggest juvenile race of the season was originally held, as the name suggests, at the old Phoenix Park track before moving to Leopardstown in the 1990s, finding its current home in County Kildare back in 2002.
Trainer Aidan O’Brien has won this race a remarkable 16 times but not since 2017 and is responsible for a third of the entries this time around.
Last year was the turn of Ebro River for Hugo Palmer, with jockey Shane Foley on-board the winner for the second straight year.
Here are the runners and riders for the 2022 renewal off at 4.15pm
1 – Apache Outlaw (Trainer: Joseph O’Brien;
jockey: Declan McDonogh)
The Churchill colt did look awkward in front when losing a maiden tag at Fairyhouse in June by getting in front of Palace Gardens.
If anything he looked better when finishing a close third behind Shartash and Blackbeard in the Railway Stakes last time out.
Declan McDonogh gets the ride, who last won this race just over a decade ago when in the saddle for 33-1 outsider La Collina’s success.
3 – Bradsell (Archie Watson; Hollie Doyle)
The British raider and winner of the Coventry Stakes looks like he could be the one to beat in a fiercely competitive field.
Also mightily impressive when winning on his debut at York by nine lengths back in May.
It’ll be intriguing to see how he responds to a 53-day rest and being drawn out in stall 6. Jockey Holly Doyle believes he is the best she has trained with on the gallops.
4 – Little Big Bear (Aidan O’Brien; Ryan
Has won his last three starts on a wide range of ground, including the Windsor Castle Stakes at Royal Ascot over a slightly shorter trip.
Also succeeded at the Curragh last time out in the Anglesey Stakes only 21 days ago, but this is a step up in quality.
Appears to be the Ballydoyle’s best hope of winning this race for a record 17th time and could go off as favourite.
5 – Persian Force (Richard Hanson; Rossa
Only lost once in four starts and that was to Bradsell in the aforementioned Coventry Stakes.
He was only a length-and-a-half behind that day, so shouldn’t be out of the reckoning at the Curragh.
Trainer Richard Hannon said after his July Stakes win at Newmarket that Persian Force was one of the best two-year-olds he’s had.
6 - Shartash (Johnny Murtagh; Ben Coen)
The Johnny Murtagh-trained winner of the Gain Railway Stakes on this course only a fortnight ago, is perhaps bringing the wildcard factor to Saturday’s race.
Third behind Little Big Bear on his first outing but has looked much improved since.
Should have plenty of stamina in the tank and if he can continue his race-by-race upwards trajectory, he could be a major player here.