HRI hits back over Hannon's 'farcical' Phoenix claim


Caravaggio: was an easy winner of the Phoenix Stakes

  PICTURE: Patrick McCann (  

 By Tony O’Hehir 8:45AM 16 AUG 2016 

HORSE RACING IRELAND chief executive Brian Kavanagh has defended the five-runner Phoenix Stakes won by Caravaggio after trainer Richard Hannon described it as a “farcical race”.

Hannon blamed the early entry system in place for many of Ireland’s top juvenile races as being a major factor in some of those contests lacking strength in depth and cited the recent renewal of the Phoenix as an example.

However, Kavanagh said the presence of brilliant Coventry winner Caravaggio was a contributing factor to the small field size.

Kavanagh said: “Nobody wants to see a Group 1 race with only five runners but that cannot all be put down to our entry system. Caravaggio was a very good winner of the Coventry Stakes and you’d have to think that he frightened off many potential rivals. The entries for the Phoenix Stakes were actually up this year to 74 compared with 47 last year and the initial entry fee was €625.”

‘Too expensive’

Hannon, a leading trainer of two-year-olds, was not represented in the Phoenix and has had just three runners in Ireland this year.

He told Channel 4 Racing on Saturday: “The other day was a farcical race. It had no strength in depth and it’s a Group 1 worth a hundred grand. Entries are too early and too expensive and that’s why those races come up short in strength in depth.”

Despite rejecting Hannon’s argument that the cost and timing of making entries was responsible for field size, Kavanagh said his concerns would be taken on board by HRI when its pattern committee caries out its annual end of season review.

Top race

Kavanagh added: “Richard Hannon’s comments will certainly be considered when we sit down and review things at the end of the year. We’re always interested to consider different views and look at different aspects of our top races including the entry system which is different to the UK.

“The Phoenix Stakes has long been a top race and has been contested by many high-class horses, and not only the winners, down the years.

“Until Caravaggio won the race this month the previous eight winners of the Coventry Stakes, who ran in the Phoenix Stakes had all been beaten when they came to the Curragh. That statistic shows how competitive a race it has been and while the turnout this year was disappointing, it would be wrong to blame that solely on our entry system.

“For the past three years the Phoenix Stakes has been the second highest two-year-old race in Europe based on official ratings.”

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