In his last two efforts, at Arlington and Turfway Park, 4-year-old colt Off Duty showed an affinity for synthetic surfaces. In the 155th running of the $250,000 Phoenix Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO), the son of Yes It's True used that footing to his benefit again, taking the six-furlong event by a half-length over Keeneland’s Polytrack Oct. 5 in a race that was marred by a pair of serious injuries.
In winning the Phoenix, Off Duty, out of the Honour and Glory mare Ms North Carolina, earned an automatic berth in the $2 million TVG Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I) at Monmouth Park Oct. 27.
Stalking the pace set by Indian Chant, Off Duty, under the hold of jockey Larry Melancon, made a four-wide move as the field of 10 turned for home. By the top of the stretch Melancon had reeled in Indian Chant, who was quickly fading. Off Duty only had to hold off Rebellion in the final yards to score his first career graded stakes at odds of 13-1.
"He was as good as he could be," said trainer Lynn Whiting. "I don't know (if we'll go to the Breeders' Cup). We'll worry about that when we see how he comes out of this race. I've never had a Breeders' Cup starter. Should I keep my record intact? I'm unbeaten.
"This is my first stakes win at Keeneland after all these years. I just had a feeling he might have it. The horse was doing so good and I don't think he got the respect he deserved in the race in the mutuals. He can come from off of it and still run his race, but this time he was the one who pressed the issue. He ran his A-number-one race."
Bred in Florida by Helen Marie Napolitano, Off Duty won for the eighth time in 15 starts. It was the fourth consecutive time he hit the board. Most recently, Off Duty took the Sept. 15 Marfa Stakes by a length in front-running fashion. He now has four stakes wins to his credit.
Off Duty paid $29.40 to win. Rebellion was second, filling out a $252.60 exacta (7-4). Saint Anddan was third. The final time was 1:10.17.
Off Duty is owned by John Pucek, Brett Setzer, Robert Edwards, and David Fogg.
The first injury was suffered by Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum Brands (gr. I) starter Teuflesberg, who was hurt rounding the far turn and was pulled up by jockey Julien Leparoux. It was later determined Teuflesberg suffered a pair of fractured sesamoids in his left front leg and will have surgery early next week to fuse the fetlocks. He is currently receiving pre-operative medication.
Also, three-time stakes winner Dream of Angels, who shipped in from Florida for owner Pamela Halter, was a late scratch from the race. It was later learned that the 3-year-old son of Trippi -Burn Brightly had a terrible accident in the stable, in which he flipped and landed on his head. After fracturing his skull and bleeding badly from the nose, Dream of Angels was euthanized. Bred in Florida by Ocala Stud Farm, Dream of Angels had earned $227,090.
"Dream of Angels has been euthanized due to severe head trauma, a freak saddling accident," said on-call veterinarian Dr. Alan Ruggles. "It’s a very uncommon problem. Unfortunately, the horse fractured its skull, had severe bleeding associated with it, cranial and spinal cord problems, was unable to rise. The only humane treatment for the horse was to euthanize the horse."