Caravaggio set for Morny tilt after Phoenix cruise
Aidan O'Brien's Caravaggio is likely to be seen next in the Prix Morny at Deauville on August 21 after cementing his position at the top of the juvenile tree with another imperious performance in the Keeneland Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh.
Bringing a three-race unbeaten record into the first Group One of the season for two-year-olds, the son of Scat Daddy was the red-hot 1/8 favourite to make it four from four.
The Coventry Stakes winner made his move at the two-furlong pole and Seamus Heffernan never had to get too serious to beat stablemate Courage Under Fire by an easy four lengths. Coral cut O'Brien's star to 11/4 favourite from 3/1 for next year's English 2, 000 Guineas. RaceBets make him the 5/2 market leader from 7/2.
Before that a clash with brilliant Queen Mary Stakes heroine Lady Aurelia could be on the cards in France.
O'Brien said: "He's a very good horse and everything went 100pc. In his last piece of work he hit a top speed of 45 miles per hour - no horse in Ballydoyle has ever been able to do that.
"He's very pacey and has a great mind. He's so relaxed he could get further, but I'd say we'll have a look at the Morny.
"He's the fastest we have ever had and I'd not be in a rush to go over seven furlongs. He could always go for the Middle Park after the Morny."
With Ryan Moore on the sidelines, Heffernan was riding Caravaggio for the first time since his debut at Dundalk in April.
"He had plenty left today. He was fresh early on, so Aidan gave him a run at Dundalk just to take the freshness off him," said Heffernan.
"We thought he was an Ascot horse and he's never disappointed. I would say he has (all the attributes needed to go all the way), yes."
Air Force Blue's disappointing campaign continued in the Phoenix Sprint Stakes.
The vibes were strong for last year's champion juvenile, which flopped in the English and Irish Guineas before finishing 12th in the July Cup, and he went off the even-money favourite.
However, he was slowly away and, although he quickly made up ground to track the leaders, the response was minimal when Heffernan asked O'Brien's charge for an effort and he trailed home last.
The Group Two prize went the way of Toscanini, which was always prominent in his bid to better last season's second.
Michael Halford's 5/1 chance was a willing partner for James Doyle and stuck his neck out to see off Eastern Impact by a length and a quarter.
Halford said: "He always had ability but only now has he fully grown up. He had his ground conditions today and that is his trip.
"He was a bit weak and immature and used to travel with such ease but didn't finish his races. We always thought he was a high-class horse.
"It was a great ride from James as he did terrific to get across from where he was."
Halford doubled up when Castle Guest (10/1) captured the O'Brien's Wines Handicap in the hands of the 10lb-claiming Robert Smithers.
Halford said: "I'm delighted for Robert as he works really hard. He's good value for 10lb and has a cool head."
Hydrangea made every post a winning one in the Fillies Race.
The daughter of Galileo was an encouraging second at the Galway Festival and was a well-supported 4/9 favourite to go one better.
Heffernan dictated terms to suit himself and although his partner still showed signs of inexperience, she eventually knuckled down well to see off Madame Cherie by two and a quarter lengths.
O'Brien said: "She ran a lovely race in Galway and has progressed again. I'm delighted with that, she's a very nice filly. She will fit into one of the seven-furlong stakes races and I'd imagine she will run over a mile before the end of the season."
Utah led home a Ballydoyle one-two in the Anglesey Lodge Equine Hospital Maiden.
The Galileo colt had the benefit of experience having finished sixth at Leopardstown on his debut, and Heffernan set out to capitalise on that match practice, sending him to the front from the outset.
Plenty of challengers queued up early in the straight but the 11/10 favourite wound up the gallop and kept going to see off The Anvil, which stayed on takingly, two and a quarter lengths behind the winner.
O'Brien said: "The first day at Leopardstown, Seamie said he didn't get the clearest of runs and was very green.
"He got a quick position today and galloped all the way to the line. He was not stopping in front but was still having a look around, and will improve again."
Mur Hiba maintained her progression with victory in the K Club Maiden.
Michael O'Callaghan's youngster was down the field here on her debut but stepped forward markedly on her return to finish a close-up third in the warm maiden won by Velveteen.
The 3/1 chance hit the front at the furlong marker in the hands of Kevin Manning and saw out her race well to keep Blitz at bay by half a length.
Mr Smith, the middle leg of the successful gamble on three of Charles Byrnes' horses at Roscommon last Tuesday, could not repeat the trick at Downpatrick.
The grey had every chance but hopes of him defying a 6lb penalty vanished when he made a bad mistake at the final flight, the 7/4 favourite eventually coming home fifth.