CURRAGH Sat: We’re looking to the Curragh this weekend for a first-rate card of eight races, which features the important Group 1 Phoenix Stakes and Group 3 Phoenix Sprint Stakes.
⭕ The afternoon’s action kicks off with a two-year-olds’ maiden over seven furlongs (1.40pm). Nine of the 14 runners are newcomers, who could have any amount of talent, but experience may pay off here. Jim Bolger’s Ringside Timing has run three times on soft or heavy ground, and hasn’t managed better than a place to date, however his pedigree suggests an affinity with firmer going, which he should get here. A win might now be possible, but one to look out for is debutant Surfers Paradise, whose pedigree suggests class and speed over this trip.
⭕ Next is a two-year-old Fillies’ Juvenile over seven furlongs (2.15pm). Less than half the field have any racecourse exposure, but there are some interesting contenders among them. A Lilac Rolla, who won easily on debut over six furlongs at Cork two weeks ago, has the pedigree to handle this more undulating track, and won’t be upset by the step up in trip. Profit Refused, a winner over seven and a half last time out, may be the one to challenge her.
⭕ Another two-year-old maiden follows, this time over six furlongs (2.50pm). John O’Donoghue’s newcomer Goal Exceeded could have a chance, being a brother to a filly who was useful at two, but Ger Lyons’ Mr Saturday looks to be among the best talent on show here, finishing second to Unquestionable – since narrowly beaten in a Group 2 – last time out. Having had a lengthy break since then, he may be able to improve on that run and impress here.
⭕ The first of the feature races is the Group 3 Phoenix Sprint Stakes (3.25pm). 11 line up for this competitive race, which has plenty of depth. Jack Davison’s three-year-old Thunderbear, the winner of a handicap earlier this season, started his last run, the Group 3 Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot, awkwardly, but ran on impressively late on. If quicker out of the stalls and into position this time, he could be in the mix for a place or better and his weight-for-age allowance is helpful. Course and distance winner Commanche Falls, however, has been in terrific form this season and, drawn beside Thunderbear, is more likely to win the battle to the finish line with three years more strength and experience.
⭕ The fifth race of the afternoon is a mile handicap (4.00pm). The booking of Oisin Murphy makes Free Solo, last seen running on for a place over seven furlongs, a notable runner. Having improved three pounds for his three runs since moving to Paddy Murphy, and having won over a mile aged two, he has a chance to place in this company. Aidan O’Brien’s Carracci, who has redeemed a poor run at Royal Ascot with two close seconds on more forgiving ground, looks to have a good chance of winning in the hands of Ryan Moore. Under preferable conditions, he should be able to win here.
⭕ The Group 1 Phoenix Stakes (4.40pm), the feature race of the day, is next over six furlongs. A duel between Bucanero Fuerte and Unquestionable, who went head-to-head over this course and distance in July, is expected. The former won by a short head, and this time is likely to be just as close, but Unquestionable has a fractional advantage from the draw and might be able to get a better position closest to the stands’ side. It’ll be a hot contest and an exciting watch, but the small margins may make the difference.
⭕ The penultimate race is a six-furlong handicap (5.10pm). A sizeable field of 22 make this a tough call, but Edward Lynam’s Collective Power looks to be a candidate for the win, having only just been beaten last time out with seven-pound claimer Sorcha Woods in the saddle. With the same jockey again here, and drawn beside the top-rated runner, course and distance winner Ice Cold In Alex, another duel could be on the cards, in which Collective Power can use the advantage of his useful claimer to emerge the winner.
⭕ Finally, the last race of the day is a five-furlong handicap (5.40pm). Silmaniya, who was very consistent as a two-year-old, winning or placing in five of her six runs, has not disgraced herself in handicaps this season, but is yet to manage a place from three runs. A first-time visor here may what is needed to help her get her head back in front, especially as the application of cheekpieces two runs ago appeared to help. She should have a chance of placing, but will find it difficult to pass Kieran Cotter’s progressive filly, Dun Na Sead. The daughter of Starspangledbanner has hit an excellent patch of form lately, and won over this course and distance on debut. She should be the one to beat.