Racing in early August is lit up by a real cracker of a sprint contest over in Ireland. Won by the likes of Danehill Dancer, Johannesburg, Caravaggio and Siskin over the years, it often takes a real top-notcher to come out on top in the Keeneland Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh.
The race was first held in 1902 when it was known as the Phoenix Plate, renamed the Phoenix Stakes in 1956, becoming a Group 1 contest in 1979. The Phoenix Stakes was originally run at Phoenix Park racecourse in Dublin, which was opened in the year of the first Phoenix Plate. The track closed in 1990, with the race switching to Leopardstown, moving to its current home in 2002.
Next Race: TBD
The next renewal of this race has not been scheduled yet. We will update this once the schedule has been released for next season. The race info, trends and tips shown below will be updated for the next renewal once the final declarations have been made.
Last Run: 9th August 2020
- Winner: Lucky Vega
- SP: 4/1
- Trainer: Jessica Harrington
- Jockey: Shane Foley
6f is the trip for this Group 1 event which offers total prize money of €200,000 this year. The going at the track is currently described as good to yielding and should stay that way come Sunday.
|Going||Distance||Grade||Prize Money||Runners||EW Terms|
|Good to Yielding||6f||Group 1||€200,000||10 Runners||1/5 1-3|
Phoenix Stakes Betting Tips
Note: The following tips are from 2020. Tips for the next renewal will be added once the final declarations have been made.
Open only to the two year olds, this has regularly proven to be one of the highest class juvenile events of the season, with Siskin, Advertise and Caravaggio all featuring on the recent roll of honour. The purse may be significantly down this year but even so, we have some classy youngsters set to go to post.
As with so many big races in Ireland, that man Aidan O’Brien leads the all-time trainers list for this event. He hasn’t just nosed ahead either, but rather dominated the race to an unprecedented level since sending out Lavery to land the prize in 1998. By his standards he is on a drought, without a win in the race since 2017, when he made it four in a row with Sioux Nation. However, having now saddled the winner on no fewer than 16 occasions, anything O’Brien sends to post merits the utmost respect. The Ballydoyle maestro relies on the trio of Admiral Nelson, Giorgio Vasari and St Mark’s Basilica this year.
The 33/1 success of La Collina has been the only real big shock in the race in recent times, but this still hasn’t been particularly kind to supporters of the market leader – favourite backers registering a level stakes loss of -£4.87 over the last decade.
Steel Bull – 5/2
Heading the betting this year is the Michael O’Callaghan-trained Steel Bull. This son of Clodovil heads into the race unbeaten in his two career starts to date, with the manner of those two successes catching the eyes of many and hinting at a big future.
Making his debut at Naas on the 22nd July, he looked a class above the maiden field that day when powering clear under only hands and heels riding for a 2½l success. Sent over to Goodwood for the Molecomb Stakes only seven days later, his young trainer seemed optimistic of a bold showing, and duly got one.
Steel Bull travelled supremely well in behind throughout, before quickening up nicely close home to score by ¾l – taking the step up into Group 3 company in his stride. He is up in class again here, but given that come from behind style, it’s hard to judge exactly how good he is and we suspect he may well be up to the task. The one slight question mark concerns this step up to 6f for the first time, with each of those two previous wins having come at 5f.
The Lir Jet – 7/2
Another must for the shortlist is the Michael Bell-trained speedster, The Lir Jet. Going in the colours of Qatar Racing Limited, this son of Norfolk Stakes winner Prince Of Lir looks to have inherited every bit of his father’s speed, if his first three starts to date are anything to go by.
Making his debut at Yarmouth in June, the bay colt barely saw another rival in scorching to a 2¾l success. Given his pedigree and that debut promise, the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot was the obvious next port of call, and it proved to be a case of like father like son, as The Lir Jet finished best of all under the Oisin Murphy drive to get up close home.
This one does head into the race on the back of a loss, but really lost nothing in defeat in only going down in a head bobber over this trip at Chantilly. The joint second top-rated runner in the field, he looks set to go well with Ben Coen taking over in the saddle.
Ventura Tormenta – 5/1
The British challenge does look to be strong this year, and topping the ratings is the horse to have denied The Lir Jet in that Chantilly contest – Ventura Tormenta. By Acclamation and out of an Oasis Dream mare, the Richard Hannon contender is certainly bred to be quick and - whilst not entirely consistent so far - he has already delivered on that pedigree promise and the best may be yet to come.
Perhaps predictably, it proved to be too tall an order when he was thrown in at the deep end in the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes race on debut. However, he then made no mistake when dropped down into novice company at Yarmouth next time out. Back up to Group 2 company for the Superlative Stakes at Newmarket in his third career outing, he ran a nice race only to fade close home in that 7f event.
Then of course came his career high point so far, with that short head win over The Lir Jet in France – an effort which suggests he has come on leaps and bounds since debut. The manner in which he got back up having been headed that day was also particularly encouraging, with that will to win often being a priceless commodity in a racehorse. That victory took his record over this trip to a perfect two from two, and he arrives here with every chance.
Phoenix Stakes Winners
|2020||Lucky Vega||4/1||Jessica Harrington||Shane Foley|
|2019||Siskin||10/11||Ger Lyons||Colin Keane|
|2018||Advertise||11/10||Martyn Meade||Frankie Dettori|
|2017||Sioux Nation||2/1||Aidan O’Brien||Ryan Moore|
|2016||Caravaggio||1/8||Aidan O’Brien||Seamie Heffernan|
|2015||Air Force Blue||9/4||Aidan O’Brien||Joseph O’Brien|
|2014||Dick Whittington||6/1||Aidan O’Brien||Joseph O’Brien|
|2013||Sudirman||4/1||David Wachman||Wayne Lordan|
|2012||Pedro The Great||10/1||Aidan O'Brien||Seamie Heffernan|
|2011||La Collina||33/1||Kevin Predergast||Declan McDonogh|
About the Phoenix Stakes: Group 1 Action for Two Year Olds
The Phoenix Stakes is a historically significant horse race which is run over a distance of six furlongs on the flat at Curragh race course in County Kildare in Ireland. The contest is a sprint on turf and is held in August of each year. The race itself is comprised of only two year old thoroughbreds, of which both colts and fillies may enter.
The race was first run in 1902 and the victor of the first event was a horse by the name of Bushey Belle. The contest was originally named the Phoenix Plate, and was given its name due to the fact that it was run at Phoenix Park Racecourse, although it was also known informally as “the 1500”, and was run over the shorter distance of five furlongs.
In 1956 the event was renamed the Phoenix Stakes, and in 1971 was given a Group 2 status. The race was upgraded in 1979 once again to become a Group 1 contest. In 1982 the Leopardstown racecourse had the honour of holding the Phoenix Stakes, and when it returned to Phoenix Park in 1983 the distance was extended to six furlongs. When Phoenix Park closed in 1990, the event was once again held at Leopardstown in 1991 through to 2001; it was subsequently moved to the Curragh in 2002.
There are some truly astonishing records when looking at the list of winners over the years in this prestigious event. Starting off with Sue Magnier who has owned or part owned no less than 18 winners; she certainly has some sort of recipe for success. Not far behind her is the trainer Aidan O’Brien who has trained an amazing 16 winners, beginning in 1998 with Lavery, and achieving his last success in 2017 with Sioux Nation. What is even more impressive is his dominance since his very first win, as he has won 16 out of the 22 years of this contest up to 2019.
There are many renowned jockeys to have claimed the honours here over the years, but the record holder, who has ridden five different winners in the Phoenix Stakes, is Michael Kinane. He scored his successes over a 20 year period, from 1983 with King Persian to 2003 when he struck a win with One Cool Cat. From the table below you can see which notable jockeys have won in this event more than once, dating from when the race became a Group 1 in 1979 to 2020.
A Cut Above The Rest
When trying to find trends from years gone by in order to try and gain an advantage when choosing a horse to back, there really is one person that you need to consider first, and that is none other than 16-time winning trainer Aidan O’Brien. Having won 70% of the renewals run since 1998, he really is a large part of the winning formula needed to claim first prize at the Curragh. What makes for interesting reading is seeing who he has chosen to ride his horses, as he has had much success over the years with many different jockeys.
Aidan O’Brien’s Phoenix Stakes Winning Jockeys: 1998 – 2017
|Jockey||No. of Wins||Years Won|