Sport Horse Racing

Sunday 17 December 2017

Beckford faces formidable Phoenix challenge

'Perhaps it is the turn of ROMANISED to give Ken Condon (above) his own first Group One' Photo: Cody Glenn/Sportsfile
'Perhaps it is the turn of ROMANISED to give Ken Condon (above) his own first Group One' Photo: Cody Glenn/Sportsfile

Johnny Ward

Gordon Elliott attempts a stunning rarity at the Curragh tomorrow when bidding to win a Grade One from his first juvenile batch - and a pretty cheap, select bunch at that.

Beckford has been antepost favourite for the Keeneland Phoenix Stakes and he looked the right type for this test when winning the Group Two Railway at the track on July 1. However, he has a good deal more on his plate tomorrow.

Aidan O'Brien attacks the race with half of the eight-runner field, Ryan Moore riding Sioux Nation, which enjoyed the nicer ground when scoring at Ascot. The Royal meeting may have seen the Phoenix winner but not in Sioux Nation; perhaps it is the turn of Romanised to give Ken Condon his own first Group One.

The son of Holy Roman Emperor won well on his debut at Navan and was only beaten around two lengths after a sluggish break in the Coventry. The Coventry is a Group Two but looked a better race than tomorrow's feature.

"We'll know more about him after Sunday but he had a lot of talent from the start," said Condon. "Also he is not really a precocious two-year-old type so we look forward. He should give a good account."

While it is a big day for Elliott and Beckford, it is also one for his rider Declan McDonogh, whose lack of big-race opportunities is a contradiction of his talents.

"He has physically improved and done very well since the Railway Stakes," McDonogh said of the Bated Breath colt.

Moore should have more luck in the At The Races Phoenix Sprint Stakes, a Group Three. Washington DC was a bit trapped on the rail at Goodwood last week and, while it would be stretching it to say he was unfortunate, he was well backed and is good enough to win this for Ballydoyle.

Brick By Brick has done nothing wrong for Jessica Harrington, who unveiled a talented juvenile on Thursday at Leopardstown. He is rated 88 and it seems improbable that any of his rivals will run beyond that in the opening maiden.

Swiss Cottage reappears just six days after a pleasing Curragh spin behind the promising Riyazan, suggesting John Murphy is happy that this promising colt can take the Anglesey Lodge Equine Hospital Irish EBF Maiden, which could shape into an informative maiden.

The good thing of the day is Sizzling in the Loder Irish EBF Fillies Race under Moore. Aidan O'Brien's filly would have won at Galway with a bit of luck and is hard to oppose here.

Michael O'Callaghan has been hitting the crossbar with Aggression. The Marju gelding is creeping back to something like a mark that may prove consistent with his ability, but if he breaks adequately he can take the Mongey Communications Apprentice Handicap under Sean Davis.

The nightcap, the Gabriel Curran Memorial Handicap, honours a rider from Kells who had a fine relationship with Kevin Prendergast. This can go to the John Murtagh-trained Windsor Beach, though he has little in hand at this stage.

Downpatrick hosts a decent card. Ruby Walsh makes the journey up and steers Iolani in the opener, but giving weight to Elliott's Skeaping may prove beyond him. However, Walsh and Willie Mullins can take the feature Balloo Hire Centres Rated Hurdle with Timi Roli.

Irish Independent

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