Whittington continues O’Brien’s Phoenix domination

Aidan O’Brien’s domination of the Keeneland Phoenix Stakes continued as Dick Whittington caused a minor upset in the Curragh feature.

Whittington continues O’Brien’s Phoenix domination

The Group One contest has been won by some of Ballydoyle’s leading juveniles over the years, with likes of Johannesburg (2001), George Washington (2005), Holy Roman Emperor (2006) and Mastercraftsman (2008) among a dozen O’Brien winners.

It is perhaps optimistic to suggest Dick Whittington can scale similar heights to that bunch following his victory in a race severely depleted by the defections of stable companions The Great War and War Envoy, not to mention Eddie Lynam’s Royal Ascot heroine Anthem Alexander, but it was a likeable display nonetheless.

Following the withdrawal of Anthem Alexander in particular, Richard Hannon’s prolific winner Kool Kompany was strongly fancied to record his first triumph at the top-level and he was the 8-11 favourite.

Richard Hughes was briefly kept in by Joseph O’Brien aboard the winner, but fought his way out and the two settled down for scrap in the final furlong.

Neither horse wilted as the post loomed, but Dick Whittington found extra in the final strides to secure victory by half a length.

The stewards quickly called an inquiry, but the placings remained unaltered.

The winning trainer said: “He’s a tough, hardy horse. We weren’t sure before today if he would get a mile or not but after that you would think he will.

“He won very well on fast ground at Navan and I’d say the ground doesn’t seem to bother him.

“He’s had a busy enough time for a young horse so we won’t be in any panic with him now. He’s had a tough race there and we’ll give him a little break.

“The dad (Rip Van Winkle) was very genuine, and it’s good to see he’s passed that on.”

RaceBets and Betfred quote Dick Whittington at 20-1 for next year’s Qipco 2000 Guineas.

The Group One triumph was the second leg of a double on the afternoon for the O’Brien team, with John F Kennedy also throwing his name into the ring for next year’s Classics with a runaway victory in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden.

The Galileo colt was beaten at odds-on on his Leopardstown debut last month, but the 11-8 favourite rewarded those who kept the faith with a four-and-three-quarter-length victory over Pincode.

“He’s still very babyish. Mentally he’s still a bit immature, although physically he’s mature,” said O’Brien snr.

“He’s a very smart colt, and we’ll probably take our time with him.”

Betfred inserted John F Kennedy at 16-1 for both the 2000 Guineas and Investec Derby.

Pat Smullen rode a rare winner for trainer Tommy Stack as Scream Blue Murder claimed the Group Three Phoenix Sprint Stakes.

With even-money favourite Maarek disappointing on his return from a mid-season break, 20-1 shot Scream Blue Murder quickened up well to fend off Jamesie by three-quarters of a length, with British raider Hamza a close third.

Stack’s son and assistant Fozzy said: “That was a bit of a surprise, but she does like the ground. She toughed it out well.

“She’s a Group Three winner now to go with her Listed win, so anything from now on is a bonus.

“She’ll probably come back here for the Renaissance Stakes and we could look at the Flying Five.

“We’ll probably draw stumps with her at the end of the season.”

Jockey Fran Berry and trainer Andrew Oliver also struck twice on the afternoon, with the pair combining to land the Loder European Breeders Fund Fillies Race with shock 50-1 winner Run The Red Light.

“She came on a heap from Galway. She holds an entry in the Debutante Stakes (August 24), so we’ll have to see about that,” said Oliver.

Berry completed his double aboard the Jessica Harrington-trained Port Merrion (5-1) in the Gabriel Curran Memorial Handicap, while Oliver was in the winner’s enclosure again after Chris Hayes steered 16-1 chance No Dominion to a clear-cut victory in the Kerry Businesswomen’s Network Handicap.

The Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund Fillies Handicap brought proceedings to a close and went to Lynam’s 5-1 shot Elusive Ice, ridden by Leigh Roche.

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