It’s easy to imagine Animal Kingdom’s progeny relishing Flemington’s big open stretches and 2YO colt Royal Phoenix gave a hint of that future with a dead-heat victory at the famous track on Saturday.
Racing on the challenging 1100-metre course, Royal Phoenix and his fellow dead-heater Andaz settled together without cover, just behind the early leaders. They joined serious battle at the 250 metres when Royal Phoenix extended impressively to take the lead before Andaz fought back to level up right on the line, with Evil Cry a neck away away in third.
Co-trainer Wayne Hawkes said of Royal Phoenix, “He didn’t get cover but neither did the other, but they both fought it out very strong to the line. He will get better – it’s never easy first time up the straight, but he did it beautifully.”
Royal Phoenix is the second foal of Helena Girl, a winning daughter of Commands and also the dam of Macau stakeswinner Sparta (by Beneteau). He’s prepared for a group of owners, including his breeder Tony Pistikakis, by Team Hawkes, who bought him for $240,000 from Arrowfield’s 2016 Magic Millions draft.
The Hawkes stable also bought Royal Phoenix’s year-younger full brother at this year’s Magic Millions Sale and Helena Girl, now in foal to Dundeel, has a weanling filly by Smart Missile.
Royal Phoenix is the fifth winner from Animal Kingdom’s first Australian crop, sufficient to hold third on the First Season Sires’ premiership by winners. His best performer this term, Group-placed winner Lord Cecil, ran a meritorious sixth, beaten less than two lengths, in Saturday’s BRC J.J. Atkins G1 after racing very wide for much of the race.
Add six placegetters from a representation of only 14 runners and the Dubai World Cup champion is a big watch for 2017/18.
Animal Kingdom’s second-crop yearlings averaged almost $155,000 at 2017’s major sales and his top price of $340,000 was paid by Solis Litt Bloodstock at Inglis Easter for Arrowfield’s filly out of Sammy’s Girl. Other buyers of his second-crop yearlings include Andrew Williams, Phil Cataldo, Damon Gabbedy, Champion Thoroughbreds, Liam Birchley & Paul Perry.