Caravaggio bolted up under Ryan Moore at Royal Ascot
PICTURE: Mark Cranham (racingpost.com/photos)
By Tony O’Hehir 8:00AM 7 AUG 2016
STAR Ballydoyle juvenile Caravaggio bids to enhance his Qipco 2,000 Guineas claims in the Keeneland Phoenix Stakes on Sunday afternoon on his first outing since blitzing his opposition in the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot.
No winner of the Phoenix Stakes has started at odds-on since George Washington, who was sent off the 8-13 favourite, trounced his rivals by eight lengths in 2005 and no outright market leader has been successful since Alfred Nobel scored in 2009.
Statistics also show that since Fasliyev completed the Coventry-Phoenix Stakes double in 1999, nine colts – including Art Connoisseur, Power, Three Valleys, Henrythenavigator and, most recently, War Command in 2013 – have tried and failed to emulate him.
However, despite the poor record of Coventry winners in recent years, it will be classed as a major shock if Caravaggio, general 3-1 favourite for the Newmarket Classic, fails to justify very short odds in this five-runner renewal of the Group 1 Curragh event.
The two shortest-priced winners in the history of this race, which was first run in 1902, were 1-4 shots American Girl and Royal Duchy, who were successful in 1907 and 1952 respectively.
Caravaggio looks set to go off even shorter as he was trading at a general price of 1-6 on Sunday morning.
In good form after a break
Unbeaten in three starts, Caravaggio impressed in the Coventry when last seen in June, beating subsequent July Stakes and Richmond Stakes winner Mehmas by two and a quarter lengths.
The son of Scat Daddy will be attempting to give Aidan O’Brien his 15th victory in Sunday’s 6f event, a race he first won with Lavery in 1998 when it was run at Leopardstown.
O’Brien said on Saturday: “We gave Caravaggio a break after Royal Ascot and it was always the plan that the Phoenix Stakes would be his next race. He’s in good form and we’ve built him up for it. We’re very happy with him. We think a lot of him and we’re looking forward to the race.”
Seamie Heffernan, who won the race on Pedro The Great in 2012, takes over from the sidelined Ryan Moore on the Ballydoyle hotpot.
O’Brien will also be represented by Courage Under Fire, a three-race maiden.
The main opposition to the favourite is likely to be provided by the Ger Lyons-trained dual winner Medicine Jack, who beat the O’Brien-trained Peace Envoy – a subsequent Group 3 winner – into second place when landing the Group 2 Railway Stakes over course and distance in June.
The five-runner field is completed by Johnny Murtagh’s Grand Coalition and Ambiguity, who represents O’Brien’s son Joseph.