First run at the charming, but now sadly defunct, Phoenix Park racecourse (parade ring pictured below) in 1902, it was known to generations of Dublin's racegoers as the "1500". It was run over the minimum distance and was won by some very fast horses such as Windy City (1951) Current Coin (1965) and Marble Arch (1972). Interestingly Windy City went on to achieve a Timeform rating of 142, which remains one of the highest in the organisation's history. Having been promoted to Group1 status in 1979 the distance was extended by a furlong in 1983 and following the closure of The Phoenix Park racecourse in 1990 the race was moved to Leopardstown until arriving at it's current venue at The Curragh in 2002.
Having won the contest an amazing fifteen times, including last year with Caravaggio, who won this year's renewal of the Group1 Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot, Aidan O' Brien again holds a very strong hand. He has seven of the twelve entries including Sioux Nation, the winner of the 5f Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot. However this son of Scat Daddy looked well suited by the drop in trip at The Royal Meeting, so perhaps The Master of Ballydoyle's best chance of landing a sixteenth success lies with the improving filly, Actress. With six runs under her belt the daughter of Declaration Of War certainly wont be beaten by lack of experience, and her last three runs have shown her to be a filly very much on "the up". She ran a solid race to finish sixth in Royal Ascot's 6f Albany Stakes, and put up another decent performance when finding the drop back to 5f against her when beaten a neck in a Tipperary listed contest. However it was her run in the 6f Group3 Anglesey stakes here at The Curragh last time that was a real eye opener. Starting at 7/1 ( from an opening 11/2) she travelled sweetly throughout, and when Seamie Heffernan asked her to go and win her race, she quickened in the style of a top class filly to put 1 3/4L between her and the runner up Theobold at the line. As the runner up had won his maiden by 8L and subsequently finished second to Derby antepost favourite, The Pentagon, the form looks pretty solid. Getting her 3lbs filly allowance she can make them all go on Sunday.
A major fly in the ointment may be Gordon Elliott's exciting son of Bated Breath, Beckford. He made his racecourse debut over course and distance and starting at the generous odds of 10/1 hosed up from Red Persian. The runner up hasn't done a lot for the form but did manage to get his head in front over 7f at Leopardstown. However it was Beckford's next run which marked him out as being a bit special. Up in class to Group2 level in The Railway Stakes again over course and distance he won comfortably by a length from Jim Bolger's Verbal Dexterity with Aidan O'Briens Murillo a further 1 1/4L back in third. As Murillo had been beaten less than 1/2L in the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot the form looks solid, although it has to be said the O'Brien horse may not have been ideally suited by the good-soft ground at The Curragh. Another point of interest vis a vis O'Briens filly Actress, is that Commander Grigio was beaten 7L by her in the Anglesey whereas the same horse finished only 5L behind Beckford in the Railway. However with Mr Elliott turning his prodigious training talents towards the flat, it's going to be very interesting to see how the Beckford story pans out.
The Tom Dascombe trained Frozen Angel ran well to finish fourth in the 5f Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot, (2 3/4L behind Sioux Nation) and took another step forward when upped to 5 1/2f in the Group2 Prix Robert Papin at Madison's-Laffitte when going down by 1/2L to Unfortunately. By Dark Angel out of the Verglas mare, Cut no ice, his pedigree suggests that six furlongs could prove his optimum trip. The dam was no great shakes as a racehorse but did win a small 5f contest at Folkestone and was placed twice over 6f at Newbury and Newmarket, while his prolific sire has got plenty of milers including Lincoln winner Gabrial, and Cambridgeshire winner, Bronze Angel. With Tom Dascombe's talent with sprinters in mind, this son of Dark Angel is certainly worth a second look.
Mick Channon must have a high opinion of his Bath winner Helvetian to fly this high, and this son of Swiss Spirit was quite impressive on the good-soft surface. Given similar conditions on Sunday he could be interesting.
Selection : Actress
Danger. : Beckford