With the season well underway the Group 1 action for two-year-old’s in Europe starts on Sunday with the staging of the prestigious Phoenix stakes.
First run in 1902 the six-furlong contest has, like many of Ireland’s premier horse racing outings been dominated by trainer Aidan O’Brien in recent seasons with sixteen winners of the race hailing from his stable dating back to Lavery’s success in the 1998 renewal. Chief among his winners have been Breeders Cup Juvenile winner Johannesburg (2001) and 2000 Guineas winner George Washington (2005).
The entries for the 2018 running of the prestigious event are once again headed by O’Brien-trained runners with no fewer than ten of the fourteen engaged in the race hailing from his powerful stable.
Our selection however is the twice raced Jessica Harrington-trained colt Indigo Balance (12/1 at Paddy Power) who made a winning debut over this course and distance on good ground at the end of May.
A full-brother to the useful Cable Bay among others he looks likely to get better with age and while he has plenty to find with likely favourite Sergei Prokofiev on their running at Royal Ascot in June it’s unlikely that the Invincible Spirit colt ran to form that day and with three places available ante-post he looks to be a decent each-way bet with a better performance expected on Sunday.
Chief among his Aidan O’Brien-trained rivals is the Scat Daddy colt Sergei Prokofiev (Evs Coral), a dual winner over five furlongs prior to finishing a good third in a classy looking renewal of Royal Ascot’s Group 2 Coventry Stakes back in June.
The precocious youngster finished third behind current ante-post 2000 Guineas favourite Calyx on that occasion with the form being franked subsequently when runner-up Advertise (also engaged here but an unlikely runner) took a Group 2 contest at the July Meeting at Newmarket next time.
The market currently suggests that among Sergei Prokofiev’s stablemates the filly Fairyland (6/1 at Coral) is likely to provide him with the most to do having lost her unbeaten record when finishing a highly respectable third in the Albany Stakes at Royal Ascot back in June.
Prior to that the daughter of speed influence Kodiac had won twice over this six furlong distance including when successful at this venue in Listed company at the end of May. The filly would receive weight from her stablemate if lining up on Sunday and given the forecast going description would also have underfoot conditions in her favour.
Land Force (12/1 at Paddy Power) is another possible O’Brien runner in the Group 1 contest. The winner of his last two starts he has been kept busy since making his debut on soft-to-heavy ground in April and his total career starts currently number six. Like his aforementioned stablemates he too was placed in Group company at Royal Ascot, this time in the Norfolk Stakes while prior to that he had finished third to Fairyland in a Listed contest at this venue.
The No Nay Never colt, out of a Group 3 winning dam has improved since that effort however and his two most recent victories include a Group 2 success on good ground over six furlongs at Goodwood earlier this month. With that recent success in mind he would seem an unlikely runner but would have strong claims if lining up.
Jessica Harrington is the only other trainer with more than one horse engaged in Sunday’s big race and while she could saddle the selection Indigo Balance she could also saddle the once raced Klute (25/1 at Paddy Power).
Purchased for €120,000 as a yearling in September 2017 the colt made a winning debut when victorious in a ten runner seven furlong contest at this venue early last month. The form of that contest is working out well with the second and third both winning in the interim period and he would be an interesting runner should he make the field.
Mia Mento is another to have made a winning debut with her victory coming in a six furlong contest at Leopardstown last month. Hailing from the predominantly jumps orientated stable of Tom Mullins the filly got up late on to get the better of a number of vastly more experienced rivals and with further improvement likely she may surprise a few better fancied rivals.
As previously mentioned Advertise (11/4 at Paddy Power) is an unlikely runner on Sunday with a trip to Deauville later this month a more likely option for Martyn Meade’s charge. Should he contest Sunday’s feature he would be attempting to record a third win in four starts and cement his place towards the fore in the betting for next years 2000 Guineas, 14/1 at the top horse racing betting sites.
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