David Wachman gears up for a big week
David Wachman trained Most Beautiful could break Aidan O’Brien stranglehold
Good ground could send the David Wachman trained Most Beautiful to the Curragh for a tilt at the Phoenix Stakes next Sunday. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/INPHO
Most Beautiful could attempt to continue David Wachman’s run of Group 1 success in this Sunday’s Keeneland Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh, Europe’s first top-flight event of the season for two-year-olds.
Winner of the Group 3 Grangecon Stud Stakes over the course and distance last month, Most Beautiful carries the colours of former Irish rugby international Ronan O’Gara, and currently appears the sole filly contender in line to take on colts in the €250,000 feature.
The Phoenix has been the plan for Godolphin’s impressive Coventry Stakes winner Buratino since his Royal Ascot success in the Coventry Stakes and trainer Mark Johnston was in charge of the last cross-channel based winner, Princely Heir, all of 18 years ago when the race was run in Leopardstown.
Since then, Aidan O’Brien has exerted a fierce grip on the race, scoring in 13 of the past 17 years, and the champion trainer is set to pick from a trio of the Railway Stakes winner Painted Cliffs, the Windsor Castle winner Washington DC, and Air Force Blue, who chased home Buratino at Ascot.
Wachman, however, has twice managed to break the Ballydoyle stranglehold, first with Damson in 2004, and two years ago with Sudirman under Wayne Lordan.
The trainer has enjoyed a superb 2015 to date, highlighted by Legatissimo who doubled her Group 1 tally in Saturday’s Nassau Stakes at Goodwood.
Afterwards Legatissimo was cut by many bookmakers for the Juddmonte International at York in just over two weeks’ time, but Wachman isn’t committing himself to any definite plans for his 1,000 Guineas heroine just yet.
Lots of options
“We will have to see how she is in the next few weeks, and obviously I will talk to the owners about what they want to do, but there are lots of options. There’s the Irish Champion Stakes, the Matron, the Prix de l’Opera, plenty of races that could suit her; she may even wind up the year in the Breeders’ Cup. So we’ll see. But she did it well at Goodwood and seems fine after it,” he said.
The shape of the Phoenix Stakes will become clearer after Tuesday’s forfeit stage, but the race is being carefully considered for Most Beautiful, who has won two of her three career starts to date.
“She likes good ground and if it came up good, then we would definitely have a look at the Phoenix for her,” said Wachman, who also currently has Auld Enemy among the entries for the Group 1 event.
The going at the Curragh is currently “good” and track manager Paul Hensey said: “It looks like being a changeable week ahead in terms of weather, so it will be closer to the time before we know for certain what it will be like on Sunday.”
He added: “Mark Johnston’s horse looks like coming over and there may be a couple floating about that might yet come into the potential supplementary bracket. If you look over the years it is a race that rarely attracts a big field, on average about six to eight runners.”
Auld Enemy, a Navan winner in May, is one of a handful of runners the in-form Wachman sends to Naas for the Bank Holiday Monday programme, lining up in an opener that sees the Godolphin colours carried by both Al Qahwa and Mimicking.
The latter hasn’t run since May when a beaten favourite at the Curragh, but Al Qahwa won impressively at Leopardstown a couple of weeks ago and Michael Halford has opted to keep the Fast Company colt to six furlongs.
“He’s been in good form since. It’s only a small field, but it looks a very competitive race. Having said that, we’d be expecting a big run from our lad,” Halford said.
Wachman will be keen to get a winning bracket into the well bred Curlylocks in the six furlong three-year-old maiden, while Georgia On My Mind should be a major contender in the mile equivalent.
Barry Geraghty goes to Cork’s all-National Hunt Bank Holiday fixture for five rides, the best of which may emerge as Roconga in the second of the maiden hurdles.
Twice placed over flights last winter, Edward O’Grady’s runner, a half brother to the Grade 1 winner, Jumbo Rio, won a bumper at Clonmel before finding Tesseract too good in another bumper at Bellewstown a month ago.