Saturday: 4.15 Curragh
Keeneland Phoenix Stakes (Group 1) | 6f | 2yo | ITV/RTV
Hollie Doyle is hopeful there will be more to come from runaway Coventry Stakes winner Bradsell, who puts his unbeaten record on the line against a host of Europe's top juveniles in the Keeneland Phoenix Stakes.
Bradsell's trainer Archie Watson dubbed the €300,000 contest "the two-year-old race of the season" this week, and connections could not be happier with the Royal Ascot scorer's preparation.
Behind the Tasleet colt last time were Saturday's rivals Persian Force (second) and Blackbeard (fourth) – both subsequent Group 2 winners – while third-placed Royal Scotsman gave the form a further boost when landing the Group 2 Richmond Stakes last week.
"The form of the Coventry has worked out exceptionally well, so hopefully he can take another step in the right direction," Doyle said. "He's unbeaten and is lightly raced compared to the opposition, but he's very straightforward and his work has been solid up until now."
O'Brien bidding for 17th Phoenix strike
Nobody has dominated the Phoenix Stakes like Aidan O'Brien, who sends Ireland's two highest-rated juveniles into battle as he chases a 17th win in the race.
Blackbeard, the most experienced runner in the line-up with six runs, is officially rated 5lb superior to stablemate Little Big Bear after easily defeating The Antarctic in last month's Prix Robert Papin. However, Ryan Moore remains loyal to impressive Windsor Castle and Anglesey Stakes scorer Little Big Bear.
O'Brien said: "Everything has gone well with Little Big Bear since his last start at the Curragh. He was very good there when stepping back up in trip, having won over five furlongs in the Windsor Castle.
"We were delighted with Blackbeard on his last start in France. Ioritz [Mendizabal] was very happy with him."
'Persian Force is one of the best two-year-olds we've had for a long time'
Richard Hannon believes July Stakes winner Persian Force has improved massively since being beaten a length and a half by Bradsell in the Coventry Stakes.
"I don't think there's a lot between the whole field, but it's probably the strongest two-year-old race there's been for a few years," Hannon said.
"Persian Force has done very well since winning at the July meeting and he's moving super. He's got an excellent chance and doesn't need a lot to turn the Coventry form around with Bradsell.
"He's improved massively since Royal Ascot. I couldn't be happier with him and he's one of the best two-year-olds we've had for a long time."
'I don't know why he's that price' - Coen excited by Shartash
Railway Stakes scorer Shartash is the second biggest-priced runner in the line-up but regular rider Ben Coen believes he can make his presence felt.
Representing Johnny Murtagh and the Aga Khan, the Invincible Spirit colt got the better of Blackbeard over this course and distance last time.
Coen said: "He's a very exciting horse and I can't wait to get back on him. He's entitled to step up into Group 1 company, so hopefully he can take it in his stride. Blackbeard won well in France but I don’t know why our lad is that price. He's doing everything right at home."
Apache Outlaw, who finished a length and a quarter behind Shartash when third in the Railway, is the outsider of the field. Trainer Joseph O'Brien said: "He ran very well in the Railway. This looks a top-notch Group 1 but it'd be great to get a share of the spoils."