Ebro River won Europe’s first two-year-old Group 1 race of the season when taking the Keeneland Phoenix Stakes at The Curragh. The Hugo Palmer-trained winner was a first success for English runners since Advertise took the race in 2018 for handler Martyn Meade and jockey Frankie Dettori.
Today’s winning rider, Shane Foley, was winning consecutive editions of the €250,000 race, having visited the winners’ enclosure with the now-retired Lucky Vega last season for Irish trainer Jessica Harrington.
The Phoenix Stakes, first run in 1902 at Phoenix Park Racecourse and upgraded to Group 1 status in 1979, is traditionally the first test at the highest level for juveniles each season.
Ebro River came into the race with what seemed unlikely winning form. He had failed to win any of his last three starts, finishing fifth in the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot, fourth at Newmarket, and fourth again latterly at Goodwood, all at Group 2 level. The Listed Stakes winner from last May was facing some stiff competition on Sunday, despite being rated third highest going into the race.
The son of Tally Ho Stud’s Galileo Gold, who Hugo Palmer trained to win the QIPCO 2000 Guineas at Newmarket and the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2016, found plenty on the stand side rail as the Ger Lyons-handled son of Dark Angel, Dr Zempf (5/2), fourth in the Group 2 Railway Stakes, made his challenge.
Ebro River won by three-quarters of a length from Dr Zempf, with the race favourite Go Bears Go (6/4) a further head back in third, ahead of Castle Star, another length behind in fourth place.
Watch Ebro River race to victory video
Jockey Foley said:
“My head was 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.”
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