PHOENIX Of Spain upstaged his old rivals Too Darn Hot and Magna Grecia to take the Group 1 Tattersalls Irish 2000 Guineas in emphatic fashion at the Curragh.
The Charlie Hills-trained colt had finished second to each of the market principals on his last two starts of 2018, and went to the classic without a previous run this season, having missed the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket after scoping dirty.
However, he showed he was ready to run for his life in a race that had been hyped as a clash between the big two.
Jamie Spencer had Phoenix Of Spain (16/1) smartly away and soon in a good position. Skardu and Emaraaty Ana were also to the fore, with Aidan O’Brien’s Newmarket victor Magna Grecia and Mohawk close up.
Too Darn Hot and Frankie Dettori loomed ominously large in the centre of the course just under three furlongs out, with Magna Grecia weakening out of contention not long afterwards.
Too Darn Hot put in a strong challenge, but Phoenix Of Spain was up to the task and kept on strongly to win by three lengths. Half a length away was Decrypt, who snatched third place from Skardu.
What a performance - Phoenix Of Spain is much the best in the Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas for @cbhills and @JPSpencer1980! @curraghrace— Racing TV (@RacingTV) May 25, 2019
Results ? https://t.co/glajGV55GR pic.twitter.com/1aMRbMamNG
Hills said: “It was very impressive. We were slightly concerned with the draw in one and were really conscious to get a good start. We just didn’t want to get stuck on the rail in behind a few.
“Luckily he jumped good. The plan wasn’t really to make the running, but Jamie gave him an absolute peach and he’s some horse.
“To sustain that gallop all the way through and he just keeps lengthening. He’s a big horse and whatever he did last year was a bonus. He’s got a hell of a future ahead of him.
“We had a setback in January which put us back three or four weeks and it’s always hard chasing a horse to get ready for an English Guineas. We did get him there, but unfortunately we had a dirty scope prior to the race so we couldn’t run.
“We had given him a racecourse gallop at Newmarket on Craven week and the week after that he scoped dirty – who knows, it might have been a blessing in disguise.
“He had some fantastic form last year when he was beaten by Too Darn Hot and Magna Grecia. At Doncaster (Vertem Futurity Trophy) things didn’t work out for us. Unfortunately we just got too far back and if we had ridden him a little bit more like today I think he would nearly have won that race.
“I had my first classic winner here with Just The Judge (Irish 1000 Guineas) back in 2013. That was a tremendous thrill and this is very special as well.
“It’s so great for the owners, Ann (Plummer) and Tony (Wechsler), who have put so much into the sport over recent years and deserve every success they get.
“We’ll obviously enjoy today and then sit back down in a couple of days and prepare him for Ascot and the St James’s Palace. After that we’re really looking forward to stepping him up to a mile and a quarter. He has an Eclipse entry as well.”