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Check out our predictions and odds for the 2021 Phoenix Stakes at Keeneland!
|S Doyle||C Davis|
|R Gutierrez||J Ortiz|
|J Leparoux||M Maker|
|C Hernandez||M Lovell|
|J Ortiz||W Catalano|
|J Rosario||M Maker|
|7||SIR ALFRED JAMES||6/1
|C Lanerie||N Cash|
Special Reserve rates top billing in a field of seven sprinters set to go 6 furlongs on the main track in Friday’s 169th running of the Grade 2 Phoenix Stakes on opening day of Keeneland’s Fall Meet.
Trained by Mike Maker and to be ridden by Joel Rosario, Special Reserve has put together a strong season with four wins, and two seconds in six starts. The 5-year-old Midshipman gelding comes in off a solid runner-up performance in the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt at Saratoga on July 31. Before that he won smartly in both the Maryland Sprint and Iowa Sprint.
The favorite’s top competition on Friday could come from the Michelle Lovell trained Just Might. A five-time stakes winner this year, the son of Justin Phillip comes into the historic race off four straight wins, with the most recent once coming in the Louisville Thoroughbred Society at Churchill Downs.
Five other highly capable sprinters round out the field, and are led by Aloha West. The lightly raced son of Hard Spun was the winner of two straight allowance races at Saratoga in August and September.
The $250,000 Phoenix will serve as a “Win and You’re In” event for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint set for November 6 at Del Mar.
$10 Exacta Box – Aloha West and Special Reserve = $20
$5 Exacta part wheel – Aloha West and Special Reserve over Mucho and Endorsed = $20
If you’re playing only to win, go with my top pick Aloha West (4/1).
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The first of two from the strong barn of Mike Maker, this gelding has done absolutely nothing wrong in 2021. He’s won when he was supposed to, and his only two defeats of the year came against strong competition, including last time when second best in a Grade 1 affair at Keeneland. While he has a high turn of speed, he has also demonstrated the ability to sit just off the pace and pounce. This trait should suit him well against a speedy field. He came up a little short at Keeneland in the spring, but it was a strong performance, yielding late to the classy Flagstaff. He’s the one they will all have to beat.
It’s hard to knock a horse who has come in having won four straight stakes races. While he has spent much of his career on the turf, and is a multiple stakes winner there, his last two have come on the dirt, and have been very good. On Friday, though, he faces a field with plenty of early speed to make him work hard early. For that reason, plus the fact that this looks like his toughest assignment yet on dirt, I can’t make him my top pick. I also see a few races in his past performances where he backed out after strong pace pressure, albeit on the grass. A threat, but I will try to beat him.
In a race full of speed, this is the one horse I know can come from off the pace successfully. A winner of three of his last four, his only loss came when fourth in the Kelly’s Landing Stakes in June. It was a bit of a rough trip in that one, which was his stakes debut, but he has since rebounded in solid company by winning two straight fast allowance races at Saratoga. Friday’s race represents only his second try in stakes company, but he just looks to be a horse putting it all together now seven races into his career. I like his progression, his ability to rally, and keeping Joel Rosario in the saddle. He is the top pick.
This 5-year-old son of Munnings has really come of age of late for trainer Norman Cash. Four starts back, he won a solid allowance race at Churchill Downs which earned him his first attempts in stakes racing. He was not embarrassed, running third in the Aristides at Churchill and then second in the Good Lord at Ellis Park. That experience seems to have served him well, because in his return to allowance company, he ran a hole in the wind to win off by 5 lengths in 1:08 flat. He’s obviously improved to the point of being a serious threat in a graded sprint race, but he still needs to prove he can beat this type of competition. With other speed to deal with, I am going to take a stand against him, but that last performance does scare me.
This son of Blame has proven to be a real hard knocker this year, especially in his most recent three starts. He has sandwiched a stakes victory with two narrow defeats against fast horses, including a game defeat last time to Just Might. Showing more speed than he previously did, he looks to be in the form of his career. Being able to sit just off the early speed on Friday will likely suit him well. I’m not sure he can get over the hump in his toughest test to date, but off his recent form, he must be respected as a threat to be a part of the exotics.
Once upon a time a horse with real potential, his career seemed to be going nowhere fast. That could change, though, as he was claimed by the highly successful Mike Maker two starts back. In his first start for the new barn, he rallied well to be second behind Just Might in a stakes race at Churchill Downs. It was an improved effort, but probably not quite enough to win this. Having said that, if he can make another move forward, he should appreciate all the early speed in here. All in all, he is an intriguing long shot, who should be running well late.
In a field of veterans, this son of Tapizar is the lone 3-year-old in the group. He has shown flashes of serious sprinting ability, which includes a second-place finish at Keeneland to the talented Highly Motivated in the Nyquist Stakes last fall. After getting 2021 off to a flying start with a nice win in the Sugar Bowl Stakes at Fair Grounds, he missed some time and has failed to find the winner’s circle in three starts. Two of them are solid, including running second to Special Reserve at Iowa, but overall his speed looks to have found a tough spot against this group.
|Phoenix Stakes Race Information|
|What||Phoenix Stakes (Grade 2)|
|When||Friday, October 8 — 5:10pm Eastern time|
|How to Watch||TVG|
Taken to the races at a very young age, Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Professionally, his work has been published on several leading industry sites. Brian served as the Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, where he still writes a regular column and hosts the popular weekly webcast HorseCenter.
Email: [email protected]
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