Talking Horses: Phoenix could win Ebor despite threat to quit UK racing

Talking Horses: Phoenix could win Ebor despite threat to quit UK racing


hoenix Thoroughbreds’ continuing stay in British racing could extend to winning one of the season’s most valuable handicaps, as Deja is expected to carry their colours in the Ebor on Saturday. The bloodstock operation put out a statement one week ago saying it would quit the sport in this country “with immediate effect” over what it described as “unfair” press coverage but it has since continued to race its horses with no evident change in pattern.

Peter Chapple-Hyam, trainer of Deja, was asked on Monday whether Phoenix were happy to run the horse in the Ebor and replied: “Yes, as far as I know. I haven’t heard anything different.” He said the organisation had given him no information about plans to stop having runners.

Harry Bentley is booked to ride Deja, the pair having won Haydock’s Old Newton Cup last month, and the bookmakers quite like their chances of landing the high-profile pot, having them fourth in betting lists at 14-1. “I’m very happy with him,” Chapple-Hyam said. “Any rain will help.

“The handicapper might just have him. He’s got to give Group winners weight, which is not the way it normally should be.”

While the appearance of Phoenix’s silks at York would be at odds with its seeming determination to leave last week, it amounts to good news for Chapple-Hyam, who would be left with just five horses at his Newmarket yard if the Dubai-based outfit actually left.

Meanwhile, Battaash, the hot favourite for Friday’s Nunthorpe Stakes, is said to be a more mature horse these days than the one who boiled over in the preliminaries before the 2017 race. “In the past, getting him to the start was always the most important thing, and keeping him calm,” said his regular jockey, Jim Crowley, during a Qipco Champions Series press conference. “Touch wood, this year he’s been really good. He seems to be in that routine now.

“Before, you’d get on him in the paddock and you’d feel him tensing up. You’d canter to post and he’d be grinding his teeth. He was like a little ticking time bomb, waiting to go off. Whereas this year, he’s been so much more relaxed. You get on him and you can feel him relax, whereas before he was tense and wanting to do everything at 100mph.”

Rain may be the biggest danger to Battaash, generally priced up as the 1-2 favourite for the sprint contest, following the withdrawal of Golden Pal. Crowley wants a dry week at York after the 9mm that turned the going good on Monday morning.

“I’m just praying the rain stays away,” the jockey said. “It’s not going to be as easy for him if the ground turns soft.”

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Beverley 1.00 Bay Of Whispers 1.30 Beechwood Donna 2.00 Princess Power 2.30 Diamond Haze 3.00 Eldelbar 3.30 How Bizarre 4.00 The Trendy Man 4.30 Sea Sister 5.05 LismoreFontwell 1.45 Filou Des Issards 2.15 Easyrun De Vassy 2.45 Chapmanshype 3.15 Shiroccan Roll 3.45 Arthur’s Sixpence 4.20 Peltwell 4.50 Molliana (nb) 5.20 Auld Sod 5.50 Nellie KernowKempton4.25 Guru 5.00 Dreamloper 5.30 Sadiqa 6.00 Nigel Nott 6.30 Renaissance Rose 7.00 Oslo 7.30 Mutalahef 8.00 Bullfinch 8.30 Machios (nap)

Star horses cannot expect to have everything their own way but, from Crowley’s perspective, it would have been ideal for the Nunthorpe to have been staged on the kind of rattling quick ground that prevailed at most tracks last week. “He’d have bounced off it.”