Phoenix Nights – Party Time for Elliott?

A pair of juvenile events are the highlight of this weekend’s action.

The Group Three Sweet Solero takes place at Newmarket, with several classy fillies on show. And 24 hours later at the Curragh, we have the Group One Phoenix Stakes, so often won by a leading Irish juvenile.

Numerous winners of the Newmarket event have returned to win the Group One Fillies’ Mile later in the campaign, highlighting the quality of filly this race attracts. Certify and White Moonstone completed the double for Godolphin in 2010 and 2012. The John Gosden-trained Rainbow View was another to complete the feat in 2008. In 2002 James Fanshawe’s Soviet Song announced herself as a talented filly, winning both and being installed as favourite for the 2003 Guineas. She became one of the greats, winning the Falmouth, Sussex and Matron Stakes as a four-year-old.

Godolphin look to add to their impressive Sweet Solero record, in the form of race favourite Poetic Charm. She’s trained locally by Charlie Appleby, and made a winning debut when defeating Ballydoyle’s Sizzling at Newmarket. She ran green that day, yet won cosily under a hands and heels ride. She’s beautifully bred, being a half-sister to Teofilo, and looks a potentially high-class filly.

The Richard Fahey-trained Dance Diva was put firmly in her place last time at Ascot by the classy Nyaleti, and now steps up in trip. She did stay-on steadily that day, and had been three from three prior to the loss. Nevertheless, that was a bruising defeat, and it’s likely she’ll find one or two a little too good for her once again.

Mayyasah was an impressive winner on debut at Newbury. The Al Shaqab owned filly displayed an eye-catching change of gear to scoot clear in the six-furlong maiden, and looked as if a step-up in trip would suit. This is a much tougher contest, but she looks to be a leading contender.

As does Irish raider Mamba Noire, who possibly sports the most impressive form. Though only winning once in five starts, she has twice chased home Clemmie, including a close third in the Group Two Duchess Of Cambridge at Newmarket. She got within half a length of Nyaleti that day, and that performance now looks particularly impressive. She was staying on strongly, and this seven-furlong trip should prove ideal. Nations Alexander was third in the Duchess of 2016 before returning to win this. Mamba Noire will hope to do the same.

Poetic Charm looks the obvious choice for this, though it’s possibly a race to watch with interest, rather than get heavily involved from a punting aspect. Mamba Noire looks to be the main danger.

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We are likely to see something special in Ireland on Sunday. The Phoenix Stakes is usually contested by the leading Irish juveniles, and was won last year by Caravaggio. In 2015 it was Air Force Blue that won impressively, before taking the National Stakes and the Dewhurst. Those performances saw him start 2016 as favourite for the 2000 Guineas. Sadly, as many of us recall, he was to prove a major disappointment as a three-year-old, and was retired after a string of poor performances.

Aidan O’Brien has an incredible record in this race, having won 15 of the last 19 renewals. Such dominance of a Group One event is simply mind-boggling. But that powerful record is likely to come under serious threat on Sunday from a most unlikely source. Jumps trainer Gordon Elliott looks sure to have the race favourite with his undefeated Beckford. The son of Bated Breath took the Railway Stakes in July, though will clearly need to take another step forward to land this. He’s undoubtedly quick, and is sure to be given a positive ride in an attempt to hold off the Ballydoyle masses.

At the time of writing, we are still unsure as to who takes him on. U S Navy Flag is among the contenders, and was a decent second in the July Stakes last time at Newmarket. He was no match that day for Cardsharp, who has since lost in testing ground at Goodwood. The colt has only won once in six starts, and though he’s clearly talented, his record suggests he’s far from star material.

I’m a fan of Sioux Nation, and should the ground be on the quick side, I’d fancy him to run a huge race. Fast enough to win the Norfolk at Royal Ascot, he’s by Scat Daddy out of an Oasis Dream mare, and should be well suited to six-furlongs at the Curragh. If he runs, I’ll be a follower.

The last British trainer to make a successful raid was Mark Johnston back in 1997. Tom Dascombe is set to send Frozen Angel across the Irish Sea, and he should not be discounted. The son of Dark Angel is a class act, as he showed when only just missing out at Maisons-Laffitte last time. He has a bit to find with Sioux Nation on the Royal Ascot run, but is clearly a talented sprinter and could easily find himself in the shake-up.

If he runs, I’ll be having a small punt on Sioux Nation. If he fails to turn up we may well see a very happy National Hunt trainer celebrating a sensational success.

Shalaa the Star as Gosden’s Dominance Continues

Exciting Speedster Shalaa

Exciting Speedster Shalaa

John Gosden’s dominant campaign continued on Saturday and the signs are that next season could prove just as fruitful.

Foundation opened the show when running out an impressive winner of the Group 2 Juddmonte Royal Lodge Stakes. The Highclere-owned juvenile is another classy son of Zoffany, a stallion that continues to have an outstanding season with his first crop of two-year-olds. A big strapping colt, he saw off Aidan O’Brien’s Deauville to maintain his unbeaten record. Sent for home by Dettori at the furlong marker, he stayed on well and looks a decent Derby prospect.

A horse with a huge stride, he does however look lean and gangly at present, and is sure to flourish once strengthening into his frame. Back in the winners’ enclosure Gosden said: “He's a grand horse and he's still learning. He handled it well as he's quite a big, gangly horse and he was still doing quite a bit of looking about when he hit the front with a furlong to go.”

Gosden hinted that he could head for the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster as a season finale; a renowned pointer for the following year’s Derby.

It proved to be quite a day for Gosden and Dettori, when Shalaa confirmed himself as the summer’s leading juvenile. He took the Middle Park Stakes with the minimum of fuss. Leading from the off, the result never looked in doubt with only Buratino from Mark Johnston’s yard getting within sniffing distance.

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The winner looks sure to become a high-class sprinter, and is likely to be aimed at the Commonwealth Cup next summer. His sire, Invincible Spirit, was also a classy sprinter, winning the Haydock Sprint Cup as a five-year-old. An outstanding stallion, his most successful offspring include Fleeting Spirit, Kingman and Moonlight Cloud.

The F-word appeared prominently in Gosden’s post-race assessment, when he said: “He's gone very, very fast and Ryan Moore (on board fifth-placed Rouleau) said he had never been so fast over four furlongs up the Rowley Mile. I said this would be the last race of the year for him and he's not put a foot wrong. He's very, very fast - the fastest two-year-old I've trained. He's incredibly fast and we are lucky to have him.”

The trainer then likened his colt to one of his previous sprinting sensations, when saying: “He has so much speed and has that sprinters build, so he reminds us all of Oasis Dream who probably broke the juvenile record here and was not only champion two-year-old but also champion sprinter at three. He's of that mould. He looks like a pure fast two-year-old and is not crying out for a mile.”

Mark Johnston may have just missed out in the Middle Park with the classy Buratino, but his stunning filly Lumiere proved unstoppable in a thrilling Cheveley Park Stakes. The imposing grey held off Hannon’s Illuminate and the Haggas trained Besharah to take the prestigious Group 1. After the win Johnston said: “We always thought there was no shortage of stamina but we also know she's very fast and has a tremendous cruising speed. I'm very, very hopeful she can stay a mile.”

The trainer fought hard to supress his excitement but clearly sees her as a major Classic hope. The bookies were taking no chances with Paddy Power and William Hill making her an 8-1 shot for next year’s 1,000 Guineas.