October 3, 2023

Bargain claim Special Reserve faces six in Phoenix

Special Reserve (Bill Denver/Equi-Photo)

Phoenix S. (G2) — Race 8 (5:10 p.m. ET)

Claimed for $40,000 in early February by Mike Maker, Special Reserve has since proven to be a bargain purchase, as well as one of the most capable sprinters in the country. On Friday, the son of Midshipman will aim to win his biggest race to date in the $250,000 Phoenix S. (G2) on opening day of the Keeneland fall meet.

Special Reserve has finished first or second in all five outings since joining the Maker barn. Book-ending victories in the Maryland Sprint (G3) and Iowa Sprint were seconds in the Commonwealth (G3), over seven furlongs, and the Alfred G. Vanderbilt H. (G1) by a half-length to longshot Lexitonian.

Shortening up a furlong from his previous try over the Keeneland strip in the Commonwealth, Special Reserve looms a serious danger in the nation’s oldest stakes.

Just Might enters the Phoenix on a four-race win streak encompassing stakes on both turf and dirt. He narrowly bested Mucho in the Chesapeake S. at Colonial Downs two back, and last time was game in fending off a late bid from Endorsed in the Louisville Thoroughbred Society S. at Churchill Downs.

Aloha West comes in off back-to-back allowance wins at Saratoga, and could fare better than in his lone previous stakes attempt. The multiple stakes-placed Sir Alfred James debuts for owner-trainer Norman Cash, who scooped up the five-year-old for $62,500 after the gelding’s dynamite 5 3/4-length optional claiming score at Churchill on Sept. 24.

The Phoenix field is completed by the stakes-winning Quick Tempo, most notably second to Special Reserve in the July 3 Iowa Sprint at Prairie Meadows.