Opening day at Keeneland offers one of the last gateways to a spot in the Xpressbet Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I), and it's a wide-open contest.
Bettors will have a tough time sorting out a favorite in the Oct. 5 $175,000 Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix Stakes (gr. III), which attracted a field of 10 as the last East Coast Breeders' Challenge "Win and You're In" race for the Nov. 3 Sprint. The final qualifier is the Santa Anita Sprint Championship Stakes (gr. I, formerly named the Ancient Title Stakes) Oct. 6 at Santa Anita Park.
The lukewarm 3-1 favorite in the Phoenix is Doctor Chit, a son of top-10 third-crop sire War Front , who comes into the race off a fourth-place finish in the Aug. 25 Foxwoods King's Bishop Stakes (gr. I).
Doctor Chit was on a good run prior to the King's Bishop, having won three consecutive races leading up to a second-place finish in the Amsterdam Stakes (gr. II) to Currency Swap. The 3-year-old colt broke his maiden at the Phoenix distance of six furlongs at Keeneland last April and won by 8 1/2 lengths.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, Doctor Chit will ridden by hot jockey Ramon Dominguez, who is winning at a 23% clip this year. He was bred in Kentucky by Ponchartrain Stud and was sold for $375,000 as a 2-year-old during the 2011 Ocala Breeders' March sale to agent Steven Young. The colt is now owned by Mill House.
Other key contenders will be grade II winner Aikenite , a 5-year-old son of Yes It's True who finished second by a nose in the 2011 running of the Phoenix to Hoofit, and Sum Of The Parts, a 3-year-old colt by Speightstown who has three wins and a second from four starts this year.
Both of these horses have found success at Keeneland. Aikenite won the Commonwealth Stakes (gr. II) at the Lexington track in 2011, while Sum of the Parts' first race of the year was a 7 3/4 lengths romp in a $54,000 allowance race at Keeneland last April.
Aikenite is owned by Dogwood Stables and trained by Pletcher. He will be ridden by John Velazquez.
Julien Leparoux will be aboard Sum of the Parts for owner Klaravich Stables and William Lawr. The colt is trained by Tom Amoss.
Grade I winner Noble's Promise is also in the field for JCM Racing. Though the 5-year-old of Cuvee is a standout in the field by earnings, having already won more than $1.1 million, he hasn't seen the winner's circle for quite some time. Noble's Promise last won on June 4, 2011, when he took the grade II Aristides Stakes at Churchill Downs. He has compiled a record of two seconds and two thirds out of 10 starts since then.
$175,000 Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix S. (gr. III, Race 8, approx. post 4:49 p.m. EDT), 3Yos and up, six furlongs (all-weather track)
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Aikenite (FL), J.R. Velazquez, 120, T A Pletcher
2. Cajun Breeze (FL), J.C. Leyva, 120, M Yates
3. Night Party (KY), S.J. Sellers, 120, P Huffman
4. Hamiltonian (KY), R. Napravnik, 118, J L Jones
5. Doctor Chit (KY), R.A. Dominguez, 118, T A Pletcher
6. Sum of the Parts (KY), J.R. Leparoux, 120, T M Amoss
7. Noble's Promise (KY), D. Cohen, 120, K G McPeek
8. Lonesome Street (KY), J. Castellano, 122, M J Maker
9. Will's Wildcat (KY), C. H. Borel, 120, J E Baker
10. Laurie's Rocket (KY), R. Maragh, 118, D W Lukas