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A large field of 11 sprinters will try to pick up a major win at Keeneland on Friday in the Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix Stakes (G2). The event is one of two major stakes highlighting a 10-race Opening Day card.
The Dale Romans-trained Promises Fulfilled is back to win this race for the second time in a row. After last year’s win, he rounded out his 3-year-old season with a solid fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1). This season, he has faced the best sprinters in the world, including a trip to Dubai to run in the Golden Shaheen. He also won the John A. Nerud Stakes (G2), another Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” for the Sprint, at Belmont Park two back. However, he comes into this race looking for redemption after running his worst race of the season in the Forego Stakes (G1), where he finished sixth. Luis Saez will have the mount, breaking from post 7.
The winner of the Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix Stakes will receive an automatic position in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) this fall at Santa Anita Park. 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 California will receive a travel allowance of $10,000 if based in North America and $40,000 if based Internationally.
Here is a look at the full field:
#1 American Pastime – He’ll be making his third start off of the layoff, which is usually when you see a horse’s best performance. This season, he made two starts against allowance company at Del Mar, where he finished fifth and second. He has started to look more like himself, which could make him dangerous.
#2 Cove Blue – A wire-to-wire allowance victory at Saratoga last time out earned him a shot against tougher company in this spot. His two most recent starts have been the best of his career after an up-and-down pattern before those races. He was also gelded after his latest victory, which is the biggest equipment change in racing.
#3 Whitmore – It’s good to see Whitmore back after a four-month break. Last year, he was second to Promises Fulfilled in this race before running second in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) to round out his season. This year, he opened up with a win at his home track at Oaklawn Park before struggling in his next couple of starts. He usually runs well off of a layoff, though, and his recent workouts suggest that he is ready to roll in this spot.
#4 Recruiting Ready – Whenever this horse enters a race, you can count on the pace being swift. His best weapon is to go straight to the front, which was on display last time out when winning an allowance race at Churchill Downs. He also won the Gulfstream Park Championship (G3) this year by 3 1/4 lengths using the same tactics. His win last time out could be the confidence-builder that he needed in order to run big in this contest.
#5 Diamond Oops – Since moving to the dirt this season, he has been performing at a high level. Two starts back, he won the Smile Sprint Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park before shipping to Saratoga and running second in the Vanderbilt Stakes (G1). He has always shown solid talent, but those two efforts were the best of his career. He comes into this event with a big shot.
#6 Hog Creek Hustle – His connections tried to take him down the Kentucky Derby trail, but it’s clear that sprinting is where this horse really excels. Two starts back, he was able to capture the Woody Stephens Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park before missing by a nose in the H. Allen Jerkens Stakes (G1) at Saratoga. This will be his first start against older horses.
#7 Promises Fulfilled – He’ll look to make it back-to-back wins in this race after a determined effort last year saw him beat Whitmore by a head. This year, he has been up against some of the best sprinters in the world. He has performed well in most of his starts, including a win two races back in the John A. Nerud Stakes (G2) at Belmont Park. However, he had a rare poor effort last time out in the Forego Stakes (G1), which has him looking for redemption in this spot.
#8 Engage – This colt was able to pick up a win for new trainer Steve Asmussen last time out at Parx in the Bensalem Stakes. He was always a consistent runner for his old trainer, Chad Brown, but just had trouble winning. His victory last time out showed that he might be trending in the right direction.
#9 Heartwood – After winning two of three this season, his connections sent him overseas to run in the Korea Sprint Stakes (G1), where he finished eighth. He’ll enjoy getting back stateside to face familiar rivals, but this is not going to be an easy spot.
#10 Zipp On By – A big win last time out in the West Virginia Legislature Chairman’s Cup Stakes by 6 3/4 lengths was the best performance of his career by a wide margin. That kind of win should give him a confidence boost, which he will need as he takes on graded stakes company for the first time.
#11 Lexitonian – This colt made a name for himself five starts back, winning the Chick Lang Stakes (G3) at Pimilco at odds of 17/1. Since then, he also picked up a victory three starts back in the Concern Stakes at Laurel Park. In his last two starts, he tried turf and synthetic surfaces without much luck. He should enjoying getting back to the dirt.
The Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix Stakes serves as one of 16 Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” events this weekend at Keeneland, Santa Anita Park, and Belmont Park. Here is the full schedule for this coming weekend:
The American-based Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” events come to a close on Wednesday, October 9, with the running of the JPMorgan Chase Jessamine Stakes at Keeneland. That race will be a “Win and You’re In” for the Juvenile Fillies Turf.
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