David Loughnane’s Go Bears Go returns to the Curragh on Sunday for a shot at Group One glory in the Keeneland Phoenix Stakes.
The Kodi Bear colt was a winner on his last visit to Ireland, taking the Group Two Railway Stakes at the same track at the end of June.
A prior run in Royal Ascot’s Norfolk Stakes ended in a narrow defeat to Perfect Power and was the bay’s only loss to date after he won his maiden in May.
That victory came on soft ground, an experience that may prove to be valuable as rain has already softened the Curragh turf and more is forecast to fall.
“With the weather forecast the ground is probably going to be a bit softer than we would like it to be, but he has won on soft ground previously so provided he turns up and gets out of bed on the right side, I think he should take all the beating,” Loughnane said.
“On paper we certainly look the one to beat, but there’s every chance something else in the race could have taken a big step forward since the Railway.
“We’ve probably beaten all of the main market rivals already in the Railway Stakes – he’s a Group One horse, whether he wins on Sunday or not.
“He’s been an absolute pleasure to train, he’s got an exceptional mind.
“We’re going there confident, but we’re well aware Group Ones are not easily won.”
Go Bears Go came home a length and a quarter ahead of Castle Star in the Railway Stakes, and the two colts cross paths again this weekend.
Trainer Fozzy Stack reports the latter horse to be in good form and will welcome the recent rainfall.
“Hopefully he’s all systems go for Sunday,” Stack said.
“He’d be fine on it (good ground), but he obviously handled slower ground and it might upset one or two of the others, so I wouldn’t mind a drop of rain.”
Castle Star was perhaps the slowest out of the stalls in the Railway and lost several lengths on Go Bears Go, but Stack is still expecting his runner to have to be on top form to reverse the result.
“He did lose a few lengths and he was slow away,” he said.
“He’d still have to be on his A-game to get past him.”
Hugo Palmer is represented by Ebro River, who was beaten just three-quarters of a length in the Group Two Richmond Stakes at Goodwood.
Fourth on that occasion and fourth in the July Stakes the time before, the two-year-old should appreciate the ease in the going as he looks for a first Group-race triumph.
“He hasn’t done a lot wrong all year,” Palmer said.
“He’s consistently running well and soft ground is important to him, so when I saw the weather forecast I thought I’d leave him in and see how we go.
“The ground has come up soft and I’ve been very happy with him since Goodwood.”
There is also some collateral form that points to Ebro River as a contender, with the chestnut having beaten Perfect Power at Goodwood.
“As far as I can see the race hinges around Go Bears Go, who was a beaten a head by Perfect Power, and we beat Perfect Power at Goodwood the other day, albeit in receipt of 3lb, but we beat him half a length,” Palmer explained.
“That 3lb for a length over six furlongs, with Perfect Power having Go Bears Go a neck behind him, that doesn’t leave us with very many feet to make up on paper so we thought we’d roll the dice.
“You just never now, he’s definitely shown a liking for soft ground.”
Elsewhere in the race Michael O’ Callaghan runs Twilight Jet, John Joseph Murphy is represented by Arges and Aidan O’Brien has both The Entertainer and Prettiest in the mix.