Keeneland Phoenix Stakes
|Group 1, Curragh 16:10
2yo only, 6f
1 Ebro River 12/1
2 Dr Zempf 5/2
3 Go Bears Go 6/4
8 ran NR: Arges Distances: ¾l, hd, 1l
Time: 1m 12.16s (slow by 1.46s)
A Listed winner back in May, Ebro River had been out of luck in three subsequent Group-race outings – albeit never far away, most recently finishing a narrow fourth in the Richmond Stakes at Goodwood last week.
Teaming up with Shane Foley for the first time, Ebro River was prominent throughout – but it looked as though those lining up in behind to challenge would swallow him up in the final of six furlongs.
However, Ebro River dug deep to fend off Dr Zempf by three-quarters of a length, with 6-4 favourite Go Bears Go a further head back in third and Castle Star a length away in fourth.
The Newmarket handler said: “I’m absolutely delighted, really thrilled.
“I just looked at the race and I felt up to now, all the two-year-old races had been kind of in a bit of a heap. I looked at the race and I saw that Go Bears Go was a worthy favourite, but he had been beaten at Royal Ascot by the horse that we beat at Goodwood (Perfect Power, fifth in the Richmond Stakes).
“I know we were getting 3lb from him, but that just pricked my interest a bit and we thought we’d beaten the horse that beat the favourite so we must have a chance – so then we did a rain dance!
“He obviously handles the ground very well, but he ran a very good race in the Coventry which was properly fast ground. He ran very well in the July Stakes which was not quite as fast but still fast, I think he’s pretty versatile.”
Ebro River had been ridden from behind in his previous races, but Palmer felt the decision to let him bowl along had proved crucial to the result.
He said: “I think the key thing we have done today – the ground I think is notable – is ride him differently. I’ve been telling James Doyle to hold him up, get him to settle, ride him to finish and I think – it’s taken me five times to work it out – but I think those were duff instructions really!
“I always thought he would (get further) but as he gets on, gets heavier and stronger, he looks a bit more like a sprinter. I just don’t know – he finished off best of all today. I’d happily take on that field over seven furlongs, but you go to seven furlongs and you’re taking on a slightly different type of animal.
“We’ll see – he’d either go the the Prix Morny or the Middle Park now I would think, and possibly both depending on how he comes out of it.”
Galileo Gold stands at Tally Ho Stud in County Westmeath and Ebro River was purchased for 75,000 guineas as a yearling in October.
Palmer added: “I’m pretty sure he (Ebro River) was his first winner and he was certainly his first stakes winner when he won the National and now he’s his first Group One winner – Roger O’Callaghan (of Tally Ho) won’t be able to accuse me of not doing my bit!”
For Foley, the win provided a joyous culmination to a trans-Atlantic weekend, having been in New York on Saturday night.
He said: “I had my head between my legs yesterday and it was a long haul home (after Cadillac was beaten in Saratoga). I got in at 8am this morning.
“I flew private with Ryan (Moore) to Boston and it’s thanks to the Magniers for letting me jump on that plane as I wouldn’t have got home otherwise.
“I’ve had three rides today and three winners, including a Group One winner, so that’s brilliant. Racing is full of highs and lows so you need to enjoy the good moments.
“Hugo fancied the horse. He’d a good run in the Coventry and he’s tough and genuine.
“I just said I wouldn’t mind changing tactics as they had been dropping him in. It looked like there wasn’t much pace today and with that tailwind it’s hard to get them back.”
Keeneland Phoenix Stakes (Group 1)
6f , €250,000 guaranteed
Going: Yielding, Yielding to Soft in places
POS. (DRAW) DIST HORSE AGE WGT TRAINER JOCKEY SP
1 (5) Ebro River 2 9-5 Hugo Palmer Shane Foley 12/1
2 (8) ¾ Dr Zempf 2 9-5 G M Lyons Colin Keane 5/2
3 (2) hd Go Bears Go 2 9-5 David Loughnane Rossa Ryan 6/4
4 (1) 1 Castle Star 2 9-5 J A Stack Chris Hayes 7/2
5 (9) 2½ Strapped 2 9-5 J S Bolger Kevin Manning 100/1
6 (7) 1¼ Twilight Jet 2 9-5 M D O'Callaghan Leigh Roche 20/1
7 (3) 5 Prettiest 2 9-2 A P O'Brien Ryan Moore 10/1
8 (6) ½ The Entertainer 2 9-5 A P O'Brien Seamie Heffernan 50/1
NR 1 (4) Arges 2 9-5 John Joseph Murphy NON RUNNER