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LEXINGTON, KY – Trainer Mike Maker’s Special Reserve continued his torried 2021 streak by capturing Friday’s $250,000 Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix Stakes (G2) at Keeneland after withstanding a late bid from Aloha West.
The Phoenix is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, awarding an automatic berth in the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Del Mar this November.
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Breaking from post 6, Special Reserve was the 6/5 favorite in the field of seven under Joel Rosario, who was aboard Aloha West in that horse’s last 2 starts.
Quick Tempo rushed to lead through an opening 1/4-mile in :21.90 before Special Reserve ranged up from his pressing position to take a slim lead in the far turn and posted the 1/2 in :44.69.
Straightening for home with the advantage, Special Reserve cleared off in mid-stretch before Aloha West made it tight late, but it wasn’t enough as Special Reserve won the 6-furlong fast dirt sprint by a neck in 1:08.54.
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“He broke really well, and it looked like (Quick Tempo) came up right away, and he was fine with that,” Rosario said. “He kind of settled a little bit there, nice and quiet, and then in the turn, when the horse was backing up a little bit, he was just ready to go.”
Mucho took third by 3 lengths over the winner’s stablemate Endorsed, who rallied from the rear to take fourth by a nose over Just Might, ending that rival’s 4-race win streak.
Quick Tempo weakened in the stretch to complete the order of finish.
Special Reserve’s win was his fifth of the year in 7 starts, with his 2 defeats coming as runner-up efforts in April’s local Commonwealth Stakes (G3) and the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (G1) at Saratoga last time out. The 5-year-old Midshipman gelding, claimed by Maker for $40k after winning his 2021 debut at Oaklawn Park, has now earned $638,647 lifetime with a record of 22-8-2-7.
“I do believe that,” Maker said when asked if he thought Special Reserve belonged in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. “I have a lot of faith in the horse. Joel did a fabulous job today. I wasn’t expecting to be on the lead today (out of the starting gate), but the horse was so quick.”
Special Reserve returned to $4.40 win, $2.80 to place, and $2.20 to show. Aloha West brought back $3 to place and $2.40 to show. Mucho paid $4.80 to show.
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