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Ebro River in full flow for Phoenix Stakes gold

Ebro River created a minor surprise as he got the best of a thrilling finish to the Keeneland Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh.

A Listed winner back in May, Ebro River had been out of luck in three subsequent Group-race outings – albeit never far away, most recently finishing a narrow fourth in the Richmond Stakes at Goodwood last week.

He looked up against it with the likes of Railway Stakes first and second Go Bears Go and Castle Star, plus the highly-regarded Dr Zempf, in opposition and was sent off at 12-1 for Group One honours.

Teaming up with Shane Foley for the first time, Ebro River was prominent throughout – but it looked as though those lining up in behind to challenge would swallow him up in the final of six furlongs.

However, Ebro River dug deep to fend off Dr Zempf by three-quarters of a length, with 6-4 favourite Go Bears Go a further head back in third and Castle Star a length away in fourth.

Ebro River is trained by Hugo Palmer, who saddled the colt’s sire, Galileo Gold, to win the 2000 Guineas and St James’s Palace Stakes back in 2016.

The Newmarket handler said: “I’m absolutely delighted, really thrilled.

Shane Foley salutes the crowd aboard Ebro River
Shane Foley salutes the crowd aboard Ebro River (Niall Carson/PA)

“I just looked at the race and I felt up to now, all the two-year-old races had been kind of in a bit of a heap. I looked at the race and I saw that Go Bears Go was a worthy favourite, but he had been beaten at Royal Ascot by the horse that we beat at Goodwood (Perfect Power, fifth in the Richmond Stakes).

“I know we were getting 3lb from him, but that just pricked my interest a bit and we thought we’d beaten the horse that beat the favourite so we must have a chance – so then we did a rain dance!

“He obviously handles the ground very well, but he ran a very good race in the Coventry which was properly fast ground. He ran very well in the July Stakes which was not quite as fast but still fast, I think he’s pretty versatile.”

Ebro River had been ridden from behind in his previous races, but Palmer felt the decision to let him bowl along had proved crucial to the result.

He said: “I think the key thing we have done today – the ground I think is notable – is ride him differently. I’ve been telling James Doyle to hold him up, get him to settle, ride him to finish and I think – it’s taken me five times to work it out – but I think those were duff instructions really!

“I always thought he would (get further) but as he gets on, gets heavier and stronger, he looks a bit more like a sprinter. I just don’t know – he finished off best of all today. I’d happily take on that field over seven furlongs, but you go to seven furlongs and you’re taking on a slightly different type of animal.

“We’ll see – he’d either go the the Prix Morny or the Middle Park now I would think, and possibly both depending on how he comes out of it.”

Galileo Gold stands at Tally Ho Stud in County Westmeath and Ebro River was purchased for 75,000 guineas as a yearling in October.

Palmer added: “I’m pretty sure he (Ebro River) was his first winner and he was certainly his first stakes winner when he won the National and now he’s his first Group One winner – Roger O’Callaghan (of Tally Ho) won’t be able to accuse me of not doing my bit!”

Shane Foley poses with Ebro River
Shane Foley poses with Ebro River (PA)

For Foley, the win provided a joyous culmination to a trans-Atlantic weekend, having been in New York on Saturday night.

He said: “I had my head between my legs yesterday and it was a long haul home (after Cadillac was beaten in Saratoga). I got in at 8am this morning.

“I flew private with Ryan (Moore) to Boston and it’s thanks to the Magniers for letting me jump on that plane as I wouldn’t have got home otherwise.

“I’ve had three rides today and three winners, including a Group One winner, so that’s brilliant. Racing is full of highs and lows so you need to enjoy the good moments.

“Hugo fancied the horse. He’d a good run in the Coventry and he’s tough and genuine.

“I just said I wouldn’t mind changing tactics as they had been dropping him in. It looked like there wasn’t much pace today and with that tailwind it’s hard to get them back.”

All systems go for Bears and Loughnane at the Curragh

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.

Go Bears Go ridden by jockey Rossa Ryan (right) winning the Gain Railway Stakes
Go Bears Go ridden by jockey Rossa Ryan (right) winning the Gain Railway Stakes (Lorraine O’Sullivan/PA)

“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 winning the Marble Hill Stakes
Castle Star winning the Marble Hill Stakes (Brian Lawless/PA)

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.”

Ebro River (left) winning the National Stakes at Sandown
Ebro River (left) winning the National Stakes at Sandown (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

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.

Quick Suzy to head to Prix Morny

Quick Suzy will head straight to this month’s Prix Morny after connections ruled out a crack at the Keeneland Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh.

The Gavin Cromwell-trained filly impressed with a length-and-a-quarter victory in the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot, improving from a previous Curragh maiden win and a narrow second in Group Three company at Naas.

Quick Suzy, who is owned by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners following a sale facilitated by bloodstock agent Joseph Burke, had been in line to tackle the colts in Sunday’s Group One sprint, but will now wait for Deauville on August 22.

Burke said: “She worked well at the Curragh on Tuesday. But having spoken to Gavin, Gary Carroll (jockey) and Aron Wellman – the head of Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners – we figured, having given her a holiday following Royal Ascot, that we’d give her another couple of weeks and aim for the Prix Morny instead.

“She gets an extra pound from the colts in Deauville as well – 4lb as opposed to 3lb at the Curragh – and fillies have a very good record in the Morny.

“She’s already Group placed in Ireland, a Group winner at Royal Ascot and the joint-highest rated two-year-old in Ireland – so it would be great to get some Group One form in France on her CV next.”

Gary Carroll celebrates victory with trainer Gavin Cromwell
Gary Carroll celebrates victory with trainer Gavin Cromwell (David Davies/PA)

Connections have also started to make plans beyond Deauville, with a tilt at Breeders’ Cup glory high on the agenda.

“Ultimately, her season revolves around the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint at Del Mar – and we’re working back from there,” added Burke.

“This race (Morny) fits in nicely – and we might take in the Cheveley Park then, all being well, before going to Del Mar.

“We’re very lucky to have her. She’s brought a lot of joy to all of us already, and we hope the second half of her season will be just as rewarding.”

Go Bears Go on course for Group One tilt at the Curragh

Go Bears Go heads 13 possibles for Sunday’s Keeneland Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh.

David Loughnane’s charge was edged out by a head in the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot, but returned to action just nine days later at the Curragh, successfully switching up to six furlongs to win the Railway Stakes.

Fozzy Stack’s Castle Star was beaten a length and a quarter that day and he is set to reoppose along with Dr Zempf, who finished fourth for Ger Lyons in that Group Two heat. Lyons also has Beauty Inspire who is unbeaten in two runs, having claimed the Anglesey Stakes last time out.

The Aidan O’Brien-trained The Entertainer finished ninth in the Railway and is one of three contenders for Ballydoyle in the Group One showpiece along with fillies Heart To Heart and Prettiest.

Other Railway runners Twilight Jet (fifth), Strapped (13th) and Arges (14th) could try their luck again, while Silver Flash winner Agartha could represent Joseph O’Brien along with Velocidad.

Hugo Palmer could send Ebro River for the race after he finished a narrow fourth in the Richmond Stakes at Goodwood last week.

The Rathasker Stud Phoenix Sprint Stakes is the supporting event on the Curragh card, with 18 still in contention for Group Three honours.

Joseph O’Brien’s Prix Jean Prat runner up Thunder Moon could drop in both class and distance for the six-furlong heat, and the Queen’s Summer Stakes winner Light Refrain has been entered by William Haggas.

Richard Fahey’s pair of Ventura Rebel and Ventura Diamond plus Summerghand, Garrus and Declaring Love complete a potentially strong British challenge.

Quick Suzy set for Phoenix Stakes

Quick Suzy is likely to take on the boys in the Keeneland Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh next weekend.

Trained by Gavin Cromwell, the filly was an impressive winner of the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot for her American-based syndicate Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners.

The original plan after Ascot had been to wait until the Cheveley Park at Newmarket at the end of next month, but she was added to the Phoenix at the second entry stage.

Bloodstock agent Joseph Burke, who facilitated the sale, said on behalf of the owners: “We added her at the second entry stage, and I’d say it’s 95 per cent that she’ll run. She just needs to do a bit of work in the week.

“I think she’s a filly who loves her work, and it would have been a long time to wait until the Cheveley Park.

“As a Group Two winner we didn’t see much point in going for the Lowther, and if she can get Group One black type in the first Group One of the season for juveniles in Ireland that will be a big thing and make her a valuable breeding prospect.

“She’ll do a piece either Monday or Tuesday, depending on (jockey) Gary Carroll’s availability, but at the moment it looks like she’s going.”

Sunday’s race promises to be typically strong, and Burke added: “It looks like the first two from the Railway Stakes are heading there too, Go Bears Go and Castle Star, and I’d imagine Go Bears Go will be favourite – because the Railway looked the strongest two-year-old race of the season at the time to me.

“I don’t think we’ll be far behind, along with Ger Lyons’ Beauty Inspire.

“The race is only down the road for Quick Suzy. She doesn’t have to travel this time, and I know travel in 2021 is a big deal – it must be a bonus to spend the night in your own stable.”