Promises Fulfilled prevails in Phoenix
Courtesy of Byron King of DRF.com
LEXINGTON, Ky. – It was Promises Fulfilled’s speed that put him in position to win Friday’s Grade 2, $250,000 Phoenix on opening day at Keeneland, but it was his heart that won it. Challenged by defending winner Whitmore in the stretch, he turned back that rival’s bid to post a head victory.
As is his custom, Promises Fulfilled tested the field to catch him from the start and, in a relatively paceless Phoenix, he had his own way down the backstretch. Regular rider Luis Saez was able to coax him into setting an opening quarter-mile in 22.50 seconds before his rivals began to dial up the pressure.
Longshot Heartwood advanced to be just a head behind him with a half mile in 45.09 seconds before he was dispatched. Then Whitmore, who had laid in wait in third, joined the attack. He could never get past.
“He always wants to win,” Saez said of his mount, on whom he won the Grade 1 Allen Jerkens and Grade 2 Amsterdam over the summer.
In contrast to those victories, Friday’s Phoenix came outside his 3-year-old age group, leaving trainer Dale Romans excited for what lies next. Under consideration for his colt is a start in either the Breeders’ Cup Sprint Nov. 3 or the Breeder’s Cup Dirt Mile on the same card. The Phoenix served as a Win and You’re In Breeders’ Cup Challenge race for the Sprint.
Not an original nominee to the Breeders’ Cup, he would need to be made a horse-of-racing age nomination for $100,000 to compete.
“That went a long way to putting us in today,” Romans said of the Phoenix victory, which earned owner Robert Baron a $150,000 payday. “Now we have to decide the best place to put him in.”
A son of Shackleford, Promises Fulfilled raced six furlongs in the Phoenix on a fast track in 1:09.05, returning $3.40 as the favorite in a field of five.
Although the top two finishers enjoyed trouble-free trips, the same was not true of third-place Limousine Liberal, who finished a half-length behind Whitmore. After choosing to try to split horses at the head of the stretch, his rider, Jose Ortiz, had to alter course a couple of times while attempting to rally behind Promises Fulfilled, who weaved under urging.
Limousine Liberal and Whitmore are expected to join Promises Fulfilled on Breeders’ Cup Saturday, with the Sprint and Dirt Mile also being their options. Whitmore, last year’s Phoenix winner, was eighth in the Sprint last year.
A Phoenix winner last experienced Breeders’ Cup success in 2015, when Runhappy completed the Phoenix-BC Sprint double. Work All Week won both races the year before.
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