by Dick Powell
Six horses are entered for Friday’s Phoenix Stakes (G2) at Keeneland going six furlongs on the main track. The distance makes the race more meaningful as it is the same distance as the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) that will be run four weeks later at Churchill Downs.
I can’t see DALMORE (#6) (15-1) having much chance turning back from a series of two-turn routes to a six-furlong sprint. He does have route speed and adds blinkers but I can’t see him being a factor here. HEARTWOOD (#5) (12-1) won a minor sprint stakes race at Mountaineer Park two starts back and showed good speed to the deep stretch last out in the Forego Stakes (G1) going seven furlongs at Saratoga. He shows a win here on a sloppy track going this distance but late in his four-year-old season, this colt by Tapit just hasn’t run fast enough to threaten these.
The live longshot is DISTINCTIVE B (#3) (15-1) from Peter Miller, whose sprinters, dirt or turf, are always dangerous, and this California shipper has run some races that make him competitive. He returned off a long layoff at Del Mar last out and romped by over four lengths in good time while earning a BRIS Speed rating of 105. That was his career best figure but he did it as a seven-year-old gelding and he would have to improve on it to run with these.
That leaves three horses left and you can make a legitimate case for any of the trio.
PROMISES FULFILLED (#1) (8-5) has blossomed since Dale Romans gave up on his stretching out and kept him sprinting. All his training is now geared for sprints and he has been even faster than before. He beat allowance foes here second time out going seven furlongs in fast time and after trying the Kentucky Derby (G1) trail, Romans has wisely kept him sprinting.
In the Woody Stephens Stakes (G2), 1 Promises Fulfilled showed high speed for six furlongs and then tired late. He came back at Saratoga and easily won the Amsterdam Stakes (G2) going 6 1/2 furlongs in fast time and he earned a career-best BRIS Speed rating of 106. Four weeks later, he dominated the H. Allen Jerkens Memorial (G1) going seven furlongs when he made the lead from post 1 and never looked back. The pace was a bit slower than the Amsterdam, so the BRIS Speed rating was 102. Now, Promises Fulfilled takes on older horses for the first time from post 1 and might get some competition for the lead from Distinctive B.
LIMOUSINE LIBERAL (#4) (2-1) could get the perfect trip in behind the speed and make first run on the leaders. He missed by a neck when third in this race last year, and is running well again this season at the age of six. His only poor effort in 2018 was a failed attempt going a mile in the Metropolitan Handicap (G1) on June 9, but he bounced right back to win the Belmont Sprint Championship (G2) going seven furlongs in fast time. Last out, he was shuffled back from post 1 and rallied extremely wide to get third over a track that favored inside paths all day in the Forego. Jose Ortiz should be able to sit behind the speed and time his middle move.
WHITMORE (#2) (9-5) is another horse who blossomed after giving up on distance races. His record going six furlongs is a stellar 12-9-1-1 and he is always a major threat in the stretch. The Ron Moquett trainee won this race by a nose last year from post 11 and now draws inside with regular pilot Ricardo Santana Jr. Always a force in the winter at Oaklawn Park going six furlongs, he finished second by a neck in two straight Grade 2s, including a loss to Limousine Liberal two starts back. He came back at Saratoga and came up a golden rail to dominate the Forego going seven furlongs in time that was similar to Promises Fulfilled’s win in the Allen Jerkens, as they both earned BRIS Speed ratings of 102. He hasn’t been falling behind as far as he used to and his workload since Saratoga has been rather light.
Promises Fulfilled should be able to handle his first start against older rivals. He has more than enough gate speed to get away well from post 1 and has been working extremely well at Churchill Downs for this. Luis Saez, who rode him in his last three starts, gets back aboard and he just looks too fast for these sprinters. The only thing that can slow him down would be a dead rail but we won’t know anything since Friday is the first day of the Keeneland fall meeting.
With the short field, I think the betting strategy should be a cold exacta: Promises Fulfilled (#1) with Limousine Liberal (#4).