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Boy meets girl

Horse sports are unique in that the males and females of the species compete head-to-head, and this afternoon Leopardstown stages just such a showdown. The battle is for supremacy in the two-year-old division; in the six-furlong Heinz 57 Phoenix Stakes. Verglas carries the flag for the colts and Ocean Ridge for the fillies.

Verglas, who is trained by Kevin Prendergast, laid down his credentials as the season's leading juvenile colt with a silky-smooth victory in the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot.

The grey's immediate victim there, Daylight In Dubai, franked the form in a Group Three event next time. Ocean Ridge, sent over by Peter Chapple- Hyam, is demonstrably not the best of her sex, but has been beaten only by the one who is currently rated the best of either, Dazzle, and defeated the boys on her most recent appearance, the Prix Robert Papin at Maisons-Laffitte.

Both trainers are bullish about their chances this afternoon. Prendergast said: "Verglas is in super form. I couldn't have him better; I think he's the best horse in the race and I think he'll win." Chapple-Hyam countered: "Ocean Ridge seems to come back better every time she has a race, and she looks fantastic now. I'd like to take on Dazzle agin, but in the meantime I'm sure we will be thereabouts in Ireland."

Ocean Ridge represents Robert Sangster, who won the race - Ireland's first juvenile Group One of the season - three years ago with another Manton inmate, Turtle Island. Verglas is out to break the sponsors' duck; he carries the colours of Chryss O'Reilly, wife of the Heinz corporation president Tony, whose Woodborough (trained by Chapple- Hyam) finished second last year.

The home side have won the pounds 150,000 contest only twice in the past 10 years, and field seven of the nine runners today, among them the course specialist Azra, another filly, and the speedy Raphane. The second British raider is Mick Channon's Muchea, who was just behind Raphane at Royal Ascot and who will be suited by the easy ground.

Earlier in the afternoon the Group One action is in France, where the season's sprinting sensation, Anabaa, the winner of the July Cup, takes on last year's top filly, Blue Duster, and seven others - two French compatriots, four more from England, including last year's Heinz winner Danehill Dancer, and one from Germany - in the Prix Maurice de Gheest as the Deauville season bursts into life.