3.20 Gabriel Curran Memorial Handicap (7f)
Pat Downey might not be the most fashionable name, but the Slane trainer has been getting a tremendous tune out of Three Bells of late, and the son of Moss Vale is adaptable and tough, suggesting he can go well again, having finished a fine third over C&D on his latest start.
He’s actually been eased slightly in the weights since that run, and earlier efforts at Fairyhouse and Bellewstown look very solid in the context of this event.
Likely to be sent off at a double-figure price again, he should repay each-way support. Frozen Lake was belatedly off the mark in a Fairyhouse maidem last month, and while he’s not obviously progressive, it’s possible that a win will have boosted his confidence, and he’s not harshly handicapped on balance of form.
Selection: Three Bells (e/w)
Danger: Frozen Lake
3.50 – Keeneland Phoenix Stakes (6f)
The Phoenix Stakes is the feature on the card, and features the one-two from both the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot, and the course-and-distance Railway Stakes. Throw in Windsor Castle winner Washington DC and Grangecon Stud Stakes heroine Most Beautiful, and you have one of the best-contested juvenile events of the entire season.
Buratino is the form pick having held off Air Force Blue in the Coventry, but that was his sixth career starts, and many will expect the unexposed runner-up to gain his revenge with the benefit of that experience.
It’s dangerous to assume that Mark Johnston’s colt has finished improving, however, as the Coventry represented a career best, and he’s certainly been thriving with his racing, as is often the way with the stable’s youngsters.
Air Force Blue is certain to better the form he showed at the Royal Meeting, and is preferred to the O’Brien trio, with Washington DC looking all speed at this stage, and with a bit less scope than his stablemate.
Painted Cliffs has improved in blinkers, beating Rockaway Valley in the Railway Stakes here last time, but I don’t think he’s achieved as much as the official handicapper does, and the fact that Joseph O’Brien is on board Air Force Blue seems to confirm that impression.
I’d expect the latter to start favourite on the day. So it’s somewhat surprising to see he’s only second in according to the early market.
Selection: Air Force Blue
4.20 – Qatar Racing & Equestrian Club Phoenix Sprint Stakes (6f)
Anthem Alexander had a stiff task behind Muhaarar in the Group 1 July Cup at Newmarket last month, and wasn’t disgraced, having also finished third to the same rival in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot.
She merits respect now dropped in class, having won at this level at Naas on her return, and is likely to head the market.
She’s just preferred to the admirable Maarek in receipt of weight, but she may struggle at levels against Mattmu, who ran a stormer against his elders in the Duke of York Stakes in May, and was again slightly unlucky not to win the Chipchase Stakes at Newcastle, getting the better of a protracted struggle with the market leader only to be mugged on the line by Aeolus.
His attitude under pressure at both venues has been superb, and he can get a deserved change of luck on a rare visit to the track by Tim Easterby.
Danger: Anthem Alexander