Beach Belle to lead Qatari bid for lucrative Pheonix Stakes prize

Home hopes this time at the Curragh could reside most in Eddie Lynam’s brilliant Queen Mary-winning filly Anthem Alexander

Eddie Lynam, trainer of Anthem Alexander: “If the ground at the Curragh is good or quicker we will go there very hopeful. If it is the slow side of good we will go there with our fingers crossed.” Photo: Patrick Bolger/Inpho

Eddie Lynam, trainer of Anthem Alexander: “If the ground at the Curragh is good or quicker we will go there very hopeful. If it is the slow side of good we will go there with our fingers crossed.” Photo: Patrick Bolger/Inpho

Mon, Aug 4, 2014, 01:00

Next Sunday’s Keeneland Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh is Europe’s first Group One of the season for two year olds and the €200,000 feature could see even further evidence of Qatar’s ever-expanding global influence right at Irish racing’s HQ.

It is 17 years since the last overseas-trained winner of the six furlong highlight and since Princely Heir won for Mark Johnston in 1997, Aidan O’Brien has helped turn the Phoenix Stakes into a Coolmore benefit with a remarkable 12 victories .

John Magnier’s Coolmore partnership has had a stake in another two other Phoenix Stakes winners during that timeframe but this Sunday’s renewal is shaping up into a potential superpower battle, with Coolmore’s rivals from the Qatari royal family likely to target this Group One in force with their impressive two-year-old squad.

Sheikh Fahad Al Thani’s ‘Qatar Racing’ team are set to have their colours carried by the unbeaten Beach Belle after recently buying a half-share in the Kevin Prendergast-trained filly for a sum reported to be over €1 million.

The Sheikh’s cousin, Joann Al Thani, has also invested hugely in bloodstock through his ‘Al Shaqab’ operation and the Phoenix is shaping as a likely option for the Coventry Stakes winner, The Wow Signal, who is trained in Yorkshire by Tipperary born John Quinn, and who was added to the race entries in June.

Home hopes

Richard Hannon’s Norfolk winner, Baitha Alga, also remains in the Phoenix although Deauville’s Prix Morny later this month is an alternative option for him.

Though the Anglesey winner Dick Whittington is a possible starter for Ballydoyle, home hopes this time could reside most in Eddie Lynam’s brilliant Queen Mary-winning filly Anthem Alexander.

The shape of the race will become clearer after tomorrow’s five-day declaration stage but ground conditions look like occupying Lynam’s thoughts this week.

“If the ground at the Curragh is good or quicker we will go there very hopeful. If it is the slow side of good we will go there with our fingers crossed.

“And if it is soft or heavy we probably won’t go there at all; basically the quicker the ground the better her chance,” summed up the Co Meath -based trainer yesterday.

Pat Smullen will again be on board Anthem Alexander on Sunday and Lynam added: “Pat sat on her after the last Leopardstown meeting and was very happy with her. She’s in very good form but we will just have to see what the weather does with the ground at the Curragh. At this time of year it could dry out very quickly.

“If she were to win on Sunday it would be my first Group One in Ireland and it would mean a lot. It would be even better if it was at the old Phoenix Park in the ‘1500’ but winning at the Curragh would be great for all concerned with her.”

Fillies have a good Phoenix Stakes record with three winning in the last ten years – La Collina (2011), Saoirse Abu (2007) and Damson in 2004.

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