Beckford expected to raise game
Gordon Elliott is confident Beckford has not yet reached the ceiling of his ability ahead of his bid for Group One glory in the Keeneland Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh on Sunday.
The Cullentra handler has enjoyed huge success in a relatively short space of time in the jumping game, winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup, the Grand National and pushing Willie Mullins all the way in an epic battle to be crowned last season's champion National Hunt trainer in Ireland.
His forays on the Flat have been relatively infrequent, particularly with two-year-olds, but in Beckford he appears to have unearthed a real gem.
The son of Bated Breath made a big impression on his racecourse debut at the Curragh in May and having landed the Railway Stakes on his return to the track last month, he has more than earned his place in this field.
"He's in great form. Declan (McDonogh) sat on him the other week and gave him a blow over four or five furlongs in Leopardstown," said Elliott.
"This is a step up again, but he's doing everything we've asked of him.
"I think he's improved. He's getting stronger. He needs to improve, so we'll see what happens."
Aidan O'Brien has dominated this event over the years, with Caravaggio providing him with a 15th success in the last 19 seasons 12 months ago.
This year's four-strong team is headed by Sioux Nation, who makes his first appearance since winning the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot in June.
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The Ballydoyle handler also saddles the only filly in the field, Actress, who won the Anglesey Stakes at the Curragh a month ago.
July Stakes runner-up U S Navy Flag and Declarationofpeace, who was a disappointing favourite in the Windsor Castle at the Royal meeting, complete the quartet.
"Declarationofpeace hasn't run since Ascot as we were a little bit disappointed with him there," O'Brien told At The Races.
"He had a little bit of a hold up about a month before and that might have affected him so he might leave that run behind and hopefully the ground might be nice and quick.
"Beckford has been very impressive, he's only ran twice but won very well the last day and was very impressive in his maiden."
Romanised made a striking debut at Navan in May and was far from disgraced in finishing seventh in Ascot's Coventry Stakes.
His trainer Ken Condon said: "We like him a lot and after Sunday we will know a lot more
"He has always given us the impression he is a good colt and in the circumstances, with him being slowly away at Royal Ascot, I felt he ran very well.
"I think he has improved since Royal Ascot and his work has been to a good standard but we'll get a better idea after the Phoenix Stakes. I'm hoping he will represent us well."
The field is completed by two British challengers in Tom Dascombe's Frozen Angel and the Mick Channon-trained Helvetian.
Frozen Angel was fourth behind Sioux Nation in the Norfolk Stakes before being touched off by Unfortunately in the Prix Robert Papin at Maisons-Laffitte.
Dascombe said: "He ran very well in France and we've been happy with him since.
"It looks a very tough race, but it's a Group One, so you expect that.
"I think six furlongs on fast ground should be ideal and he's improved with every run, so he has to have some sort of chance."
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