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Phoenix Preview: Whitmore Back for Another Shot
Whitmore winning the 2017 Phoenix (Credit: Keeneland)

Phoenix Preview: Whitmore Back for Another Shot

LEXINGTON, KY – Trainer Ron Moquett’s Whitmore is back at Keeneland for another shot at winning Friday’s $200,000 Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix Stakes (G2), a race that he won in 2017.

The winner of the Phoenix will receive an automatic position in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) this fall at Keeneland. Pre-entry and entry fees will be paid and a nominator award of $10,000 will be given to the nominating person. Also, all Breeders’ Cup starters based outside of the state of Kentucky will receive a travel allowance of $10,000 if based in North America and $40,000 if based Internationally.

The Phoenix is a 6-furlong dirt dash open to all horses 3 and up, with the 2020 edition attracting a dozen talented sprinters.

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Let’s look at the full field:

#1 Shashashakemeup – He cuts back to a distance over which he flew while defeating optional claiming rivals at Oaklawn Park in April, then finished second at Churchill Downs behind eventual two-time Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series winner C Z Rocket. Corey Lanerie, aboard for his last-out fourth in the Pat Day Mile (G2), retains the mount.

#2 Absoutely Aiden – He’s put together a 7-4-0-1 record since trainer Wesley Hawley claimed him for $40k last October, a mark that includes winning the 6 1/2-furlong Good Lord Stakes at Ellis Park last time out. Chris Landeros rides for the fourth straight time while looking to improve upon his 4-3-0-1 record in the Stay Thirsty colt’s irons.

#3 Whitmore – The venerable sprinter won this race by a nose in 2017, then finished second by a head in 2018 and a 1/2-length in 2019 while fighting gamely each time. He was eighth in the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Sprint, second in 2018, and third in 2019, and with a record of 5-2-2-0 this season, he could very well be on his way to the World Championships for a fourth straight try.

#4 Diamond Oops – He gave turf sprinting another go with tremendous success last time out, rallying from last to win the Twin Spires Turf Sprint Stakes (G2) by a neck. The versatile Lookin At Lucky gelding has enjoyed his fair share of success on dirt as well, winning twice on main tracks at this distance including the 2019 Smile Sprint Stakes (G3).

#5 No Parole – The Louisiana-bred Violence colt suffered his first loss sprinting last time out in the H. Allen Jerkens Stakes (G1) at Saratoga on August 1. He appears to be properly freshened after trainer Tom Amoss gave him time off; he fired a bullet best-of-19 work on September 16, covering 4 furlongs in a sharp :46.40 in his penultimate session for this event.

#6 Echo Town – He took advantage of a pace meltdown in the H. Allen Jerkens to spring the 7/1 upset, but failed to back up that effort in the one-turn Pat Day Mile last time out. That race might have been too long for him, but he cuts back to a distance over which he has a 5-3-1-1 record, and trainer Steve Asmussen’s first-call jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. is back aboard.

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#7 Empire of Gold – He shows up on the mid-Atlantic circuit for the first time after compiling a record of 11-4-3-3 while racing in the southwest region. He finished second in both prior 6-furlong tries, though he was disqualified from first in one of those, and since he’s won allowance events at both 5 1/2 and 6 1/2 furlongs, he should be capable of handling this race.

#8 Copper Town – He defeated allowance rivals while covering this distance at Belterra Park last time out and was second, beaten just 3/4 of a length, behind C Z Rocket’s record-breaking performance at Keeneland in mid-July. Improving upon that runner-up effort could put him into the winner’s circle for the first time in a graded stakes.

#9 Lexitonian – The Calumet Farm homebred has as much recent back-class as anyone in the field and finished a fast-closing second in the Bing Crosby Stakes (G1), a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” for the Sprint. He missed by just a nose to Collusion Illusion, who finished third in last weekend’s Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G2) behind C Z Rocket.

#10 Edgemont Road – The speedy Speightstown gelding has won 2 of his past 3 starts, all at this distance, with his lone defeat coming over a muddy Ellis Park course. He picked a salty spot to make his stakes debut, but trainer William VanMeter has won 12 of 66 starts (18%) this year and hits at an 18% rate with Declan Cannon aboard his horses.

#11 Mo Dont No – The Uncle Mo gelding returns to trainer Anthony Quartarolo for the first time since February 2019. He’s a nine-time stakes winner at distances ranging from 6 furlongs to 1 1/4 miles, but those all came against fellow Ohio-breds; this is a major step up in class for a horse who has never finished better than sixth in 3 prior attempts in the graded ranks.

#12 Midnight Sands – After making his first 9 career starts in Great Britain and Dubai, he shipped stateside and finished third against optional claiming rivals in a 7-furlong Churchill Downs sprint. His most recent work for this event was a lightning-quick :46.20 move in 4 furlongs, so trainer Brendan Walsh seems to have him ready for his second American start.

The Phoenix serves as race 8 and is one of 2 stakes on the Friday card at Keeneland, including the Alcibiades (G1), a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” for the Juvenile Fillies. An additional 9 qualifying events will be held Saturday and Sunday between Keeneland, Belmont Park, and Pimlico.


The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series is presented by America’s Best Racing.

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