Qatar Racing & Equestrian Club Phoenix Sprint Stakes (Curragh) Preview & Betting Tips – Sunday 7th August 2016

We have an excellent day’s racing over at the Curragh in Ireland on Sunday, with two Group class contests scattered amongst intriguing maiden and handicap action. The second of the Group races looks one of the most interesting races on the card thanks to the presence of one of the star performers from last year.

Race Analysis

There is a pretty strong statistic in evidence here when it comes to the age of the winner. In 29 of the past 38 editions the first past the post has been aged four or younger, with just nine wins for the older runners. That trend would suggest that his year’s winner is most likely to come from the trio of Toscanini, Fort Del Oro and Air Force Blue.

Toscanini probably deserves to land one of these having finished in the first three five times at Group level without managing to get his nose in front. Fort Del Oro meanwhile will benefit from the fillies’ weight allowance but, whilst remaining a horse of potential, is yet to prove it at this level.

Easily the most interesting runner in the field is sole three year old, Air Force Blue. The Aidan O’Brien trained son of War Front swept all before him in his juvenile season where he included a success in the Phoenix Stakes over this course and distance amongst his three Group 1 successes. The world looked to be at his feet headed into his Classic campaign and he was duly sent off as an odds on favourite for the 2000 Guineas only to bomb out completely.

Tried over a mile again in the Irish 2000 Guineas, the colt proved conclusively that he does not stay that trip. His performance last time out in the July Cup does offer some cause for optimism though. It is doubtful he would have given the impressive Limato anything to worry about but he would surely have finished much closer but for being denied a clear run for virtually the entire final furlong.

Eastern Impact looks the pick of the older runners having run with credit, behind the likes of Limato and Magical Memory, so far this season, and won in this grade at Ascot towards the tail end of last season.

Betting Tips

It’s Air Force Blue for us here. On official ratings he is the best horse in the race by a whopping 8lbs and surely must bounce back to some sort of form before the season is out. O’Brien also has a bit of history here, in 2003 a horse by the name of One Cool Cat looked to be the latest world beater off the Ballydoyle production line, winning three Group contests, including the Phoenix Stakes at this track in his two year old season. On his first outing at three the colt was beaten out of sight in the 2000 Guineas and didn’t fare that much better in a Group 3 over a mile next time out.

Reverting back to sprinting for his subsequent outing he took this very race in impressive fashion. That all sounds rather familiar, and dropping down in class from Group 1 to Group 3 level, Air Force Blue can show he hasn’t completely lost the plot by taking this.