Michael Bell hopes The Lir Jet has his head down where it matters in Sunday’s Keeneland Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh.
The Norfolk Stakes winner lost his unbeaten record when beaten a short-head by Richard Hannon’s Ventura Tormenta in the Prix Robert Papin at Chantilly last time out.
The two meet again and face Michael O’Callaghan’s impressive Molecomb Stakes winner Steel Bull into the bargain, in what looks a red-hot renewal of the Group 1.
“There was a pixel between them last time so you can’t be confident, but you’ve got to be hopeful because it was a head-bobber,” said Bell.
“The horse seems in good order. The Molecomb winner was very impressive and Group 1s are never easy, but the horse seems in good form so we’ve got our fingers crossed.
“He was in front before and just after the line in Chantilly, a real case of heads up, heads down, but unfortunately ours was up where it mattered. The horse who beat him is obviously a good horse in his own right.
“I don’t think he’s an out-and-out two-year-old – you wouldn’t think it looking at him as he’s a scopey sort. Hopefully the Commonwealth Cup might be on his agenda next season.
“It’s never easy going away from home, especially given how hot it is due to be. He travelled Friday, so at least he has a day to acclimatise.”
Richard Hannon is hoping Ventura Tormenta can step up again on his Group 2 triumph and confirm the French form.
“The horse has improved all year. He is an Acclamation and he does exactly what it says on the tin. He is a reliable worker and is as good an Acclamation as we have had. These Acclamations are rock hard and are made for racing and he is no different,” said Hannon.
“He didn’t get the seven (furlongs) in the Superlative and that was obvious to see, so coming back in trip last time helped and this six furlongs should be fine.
“In France it looked to me like he was running for second or third, but he stuck at it very well.
“He hit the gate well that day, but he showed what a talented horse he is. This is another step up and he needs to find more, but he improved from his last run so hopefully he can do the same again.”
The winner of the Railway Stakes traditionally runs in this race and Siskin did the double last season.
This year’s Railway was won by Ken Condon’s Laws Of Indices at 66/1, but the trainer is having a good season with his juveniles and fancies him to run well again.
“All has been fine with him and we’re looking forward to it,” said Condon. "He’ll have to improve and step forward again, but he’s been good since and he’s well entitled to take his chance.
“He took a big step forward from his first to his second run and then from his second to his third, and has pleased us since. We have a good crop of youngsters this season and he’s one of them.”
The race has been dominated by Aidan O’Brien down the years with the Ballydoyle handler responsible for 16 winners.
This year he runs Admiral Nelson, who is the mount of Derby winner Emmet McNamara, GiogioVasari and St Mark’s Basilica, who is a half-brother to Magna Grecia.