Elliott out to write new chapter as Beckford targets first Group 1 success
Keeneland Phoenix Stakes (Group 1) | 2yo colts and fillies | 6f | ATR
Already this season Beckford has done Gordon Elliott proud, achieving a number of firsts for the trainer more renowned for his exploits with chasers and hurdlers.
When Beckford made a winning debut at the Curragh in May he became Elliott's first two-year-old winner, and his first win of any description at the headquarters of Irish Flat Racing.
Back at the Curragh last month, the son of Bated Breath provided his trainer with a first Pattern race success when landing the Group 2 Railway Stakes, and here Declan McDonogh's mount will attempt to put Elliott on the Group 1 scoreboard for the first time when he takes on seven rivals in the Keeneland Phoenix Stakes.
Elliott said: "We know Beckford will have to improve again for such a top race, but he's in good form and has probably come on a bit since the Railway Stakes.
"We were delighted with him that day, although he was a bit green when he got to the front. Hopefully he'll have learned from the experience."
The dominant force
Those standing in the way of Beckford retaining his unbeaten record include a team of four from Ballydoyle, which includes Norfolk Stakes winner Sioux Nation, the mount of Ryan Moore.
Aidan O'Brien, who is also represented by Declarationofpeace, a disappointing favourite in the Windsor Castle Stakes, Actress, a Group 3 winner on her most recent start, and US Navy Flag, has been successful in the race a staggering 15 times.
His most recent win was with Caravaggio last year, with his previous winners including Fasliyev, Johannesburg, George Washington, Holy Roman Emperor and Mastercraftsman.
O'Brien said: "We've been very happy with Sioux Nation since his Royal Ascot win. He showed there he has lots of pace, and we think that going back up to six furlongs on quick ground should suit.
"Declarationofpeace was disappointing at Ascot. He had a hold-up a few weeks before the race and that might have accounted for his performance. He's been in good form since and hopefully he'll leave his Ascot run behind him."
Actress, winner of the Anglesey Stakes at the Curragh on her most recent start, is the only filly in the line-up and O'Brien, who has never won the race with a filly, said: "Actress is a good, consistent filly who has improved with every run. We're happy with her."
Completing the O'Brien team is July Stakes runner-up, US Navy Flag.
"He's a solid colt who has improved through the season," said O'Brien. "We were delighted with his run at Newmarket and he was going to run at Goodwood until the ground changed. He's in good form."
20 year drought for British raiders
It is 20 years since the most recent British-trained winner of the race, Princely Heir, trained by Mark Johnston and ridden by Jason Weaver.
Two colts cross the Irish Sea for this year's Phoenix, with Prix Robert Papin runner-up Frozen Angel representing Tom Dascombe and Bath maiden winner Helvetian carrying the hopes of Mick Channon.
Dascombe said: "Frozen Angel has been running well and improving with every start, but he'll need to improve again to have a chance of winning. He's in good shape and six furlongs and quicker ground should be ideal."
Michael Channon, assistant to his father, said of Helvetian: "He fluffed his lines on his debut at Newbury but did it well enough at Bath last time.
"We're rolling the dice to see what level he's at, but he had the entry and we're going to give it a whirl, even if it's a massive step up. He's got to improve markedly and it's a big ask, but we know that, and our juveniles are just coming right at this time of year."
Smullen going for Phoenix first
Navan maiden winner Romanised, who was beaten two and a quarter lengths when seventh in the Coventry Stakes, represents Ken Condon.
The mount of Irish champion jockey Pat Smullen, who will be seeking a first win in the race, the son of Holy Roman Emperor has been pleasing his trainer in the lead-up to the race.
Condon said: "We like Romanised a lot and we're going to learn a lot more about him at the Curragh. Considering he was slowly away I thought he ran very well in the Coventry.
"The times were quick that day and the horses on the front end looked to have an advantage. I think he's improved since Ascot and his recent work has been good. I'm hoping for a big run."
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