CAMAS Park Stud is adjacent to the Hyde’s Summerhill Farm, and these lush fields were the starting grounds for the 17th Group 1 Keeneland Phoenix Stakes winner trained by Aidan O’Brien.
It is little wonder that the master of Ballydoyle likes to win this race, as it has, over time, produced no end of stallions, and I am sure that the eventual home for this year’s winner Little Big Bear is already being considered – though it will not be for some time to come.
After all, next year’s classics will surely feature in future plans, while this season still has some rich pickings available.
Beaten a short head on his debut to Tough Talk (the result could likely have gone either way), Little Big Bear has not put a foot wrong since, and his run of four victories comprises a Naas maiden, the Listed Windsor Castle Stakes at Royal Ascot, the Group 3 Anglesey Stakes at the Curragh and a seven-length rout of the best juvenile field of 2022 at the weekend.
His devastating turn of speed has led to questions about his ability to stay the mile, but all of the progeny of his dam have won over further, apart from Soyounique (Siyouni) whose five wins include a quartet over seven furlongs. It is worth noting that the average winning distance by No Nay Never’s runners is seven and a half furlongs.
On the female side the evidence is strong too that Little Big Bear will stay. His dam Adventure Seeker, a homebred by the Wildenstein’s Dayton Investments, won on her three-year-old debut over 10 furlongs, while her listed success at Longchamp was over half a furlong more. She came up against a good one when she was runner-up to the Group 1 Prix Vermeille heroine Galikova in the Group 3 Prix Cleopatre.
When the Wildenstein dispersal took place in 2016, Adventure Seeker was sold at Goffs for €125,000 as part of The Castlebridge Consignment. The Hydes used Brendan Bashford to sign the docket. Her first foal Andrea Mantegna (Giant’s Causeway) was a winner that year, and he was the mare’s only starter. That gelding has gone on to win nine races in all and was group-placed in Australia.
For a long time Andrea Mantegna was the best of four winners out of Adventure Seeker, until this year. Winner number five is Little Big Bear, a €320,000 yearling buy last year at Arqana from the Camas Park draft.
I am sure all sales companies would have loved to catalogue the yearling full-brother to Little Big Bear this year, but he is almost certain to appear next year in familiar colours, trained in Ballydoyle. Also on the ground this year is a colt foal, another own-brother.
Adventure Seeker is out of a daughter of All Along (Targowice) who was rated the champion older horse in Europe and champion turf filly in the USA, both in 1983. Her total of nine wins included two Group 1s in France, the Arc and the Prix Vermeille, two Grade 1s in the USA, the Washington DC International and the Turf Classic, and the Grade 1 Rothman’s International in Canada.
No Nay Never has sired three Group 1 winners in Europe and one in South America. Alcohol Free was bred by Tom Gaffney and has four wins at the highest level to her credit, while Ten Sovereigns, winner of the Group 1 July Cup and Middle Park Stakes was also bred by Camas Park and Summerhill in partnership.
With 40 stakes winners, 22 of them at group level, and a further 24 stakes-placed runners, No Nay Never has firmly established himself now among the elite young stallions in Europe, and he is just 11. He has a number of sons at stud now also, including Ten Sovereigns (yearlings in 2022) and Arizona (foals) at Coolmore, Land Force in England and Armor in France.
Aidan O’Brien’s roll of honour
1998 Heinz ‘57’ Phoenix Stakes (Leopardstown) – LAVERY (W R Swinburn)
1999 Heinz ‘57’ Phoenix Stakes (Leopardstown) – FASLIYEV (M Kinane)
2000 Independent Heinz ‘57’ Phoenix Stakes (Leopardstown) – MINARDI (M Kinane)
2001 Independent Waterford Wedgwood Phoenix Stakes (Leopardstown) – JOHANNESBURG (M Kinane)
2002 Independent Waterford Wedgwood Phoenix Stakes (Curragh) – SPARTACUS (C O’Donoghue)
2003 Independent Waterford Wedgwood Phoenix Stakes (Curragh) – ONE COOL CAT (M Kinane)
2005 Independent Waterford Wedgwood Phoenix Stakes (Curragh) – GEORGE WASHINGTON (K Fallon)
2006 Independent Waterford Wedgwood Phoenix Stakes (Curragh) – HOLY ROMAN EMPEROR (K Fallon)
2008 Independent Waterford Wedgwood Phoenix Stakes (Curragh) – MASTERCRAFTSMAN (J P Murtagh)
2009 Camas Park & Ashtown House Phoenix Stakes (Curragh) – ALFRED NOBEL (J P Murtagh)
2010 Keeneland Phoenix Stakes (Curragh) – ZOFFANY (J P Murtagh)
2012 Keeneland Phoenix Stakes (Curragh) – PEDRO THE GREAT (J A Heffernan)
2014 Keeneland Phoenix Stakes (Curragh) – DICK WHITTINGTON (J O’Brien)
2015 Keeneland Phoenix Stakes (Curragh) – AIR FORCE BLUE (J O’Brien)
2016 Keeneland Phoenix Stakes (Curragh) – CARAVAGGIO (J A Heffernan)
2017 Keeneland Phoenix Stakes (Curragh) – SIOUX NATION (R L Moore)
2022 Keeneland Phoenix Stakes (Curragh) – LITTLE BIG BEAR (R L Moore)