AIDAN O’Brien’s domination of the Keeneland Phoenix Stakes continued as Dick Whittington caused a minor upset in the Curragh feature.
The Group 1 contest has been won by some of Ballydoyle’s leading juveniles over the years, with the 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 6-1 winner, but fought his way out and the two settled down for a 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.”
The Group 1 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.
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.”
Also yesterday, Garswood finally claimed the big prize he has often promised with victory in the Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville.
Winner of the Free Handicap last season and not unfancied in the 2000 Guineas won by Dawn Approach, where he was seventh, the Richard Fahey-trained colt has consistently kept top company.
He ran arguably a career-best when third to Moonlight Cloud in the seven-furlong Prix de la Foret at the end of the 2013 campaign and had been out of luck in four prior outings this year, albeit not without promise.
Partnered by Gerald Mosse over a rarely run trip of six and a half furlongs, the son of Dutch Art raced on the outside of the Group One field, tracking the well-touted Thawaany as Willie McCreery’s Irish challenger Fiesolana took the 14 runners along.
It looked for a while as though the Irish raider might keep all at bay, but she faltered as Mosse produced Garswood to perfection around a furlong and a half out to get the better of a battle with Thawaany, who was bidding to give Freddy Head another victory in a race he has made his own. Fiesolana held on for third.