Favorites have obstacles to overcome in Phoenix
Runhappy and Work All Week are the undoubted stars of Friday’s $250,000 Phoenix (G3) at Keeneland, but neither offers much in the way of value while facing potentially significant obstacles in the six-furlong dash.
The three-year-old Runhappy, exiting a career-best effort in the King’s Bishop (G1) where he earned a 111 BRIS Speed rating, is facing stakes-quality older horses for the first time and drew the tricky rail post with 10 horses (including several other speedballs) breaking outside him.
Work All Week, the reigning Phoenix and Eclipse Award sprint champion, also drew a difficult post (11), although he’s shown the ability to stalk and pounce. Of greater concern is the Illinois-bred saw his undefeated win streak on dirt snapped earlier this year in the Aristides (G3), lost again in the Smile Sprint (G2), and then only beat modest opposition in a small stakes at Mountaineer in August.
Who are some of the possible upsetters in the Phoenix?
#2 GENTLEMEN’S BET (20-1) is arguably hard to like off his recent form, but keep in mind this veteran ran a solid fourth in this event two years ago as the 2-1 favorite and later ran third in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1). His victory in the $100,000 Hot Springs at Oaklawn in March was very impressive (109 Speed rating), and trainer Ron Moquett wisely backed off after three sub-par efforts following that race. Fresh and with two recent bullet works, we might see a better effort from this one.
#4 HOLY BOSS (4-1), like Runhappy, has been one of the better three-year-old sprinters this season with stakes scores at Oaklawn and Pimlico, and a Grade 2 victory in the Amsterdam at Saratoga. Six lengths third in the King’s Bishop, the Steve Asmussen charge might be better suited cutting back to this six-furlong trip and fits well from a Speed rating perspective.
#7 A. P. INDIAN (20-1) looks very much like an overlay on the morning line. He handily defeat eventual Smile Sprint winner Favorite Tale in the $75,000 Decathlon at Monmouth in May, and then beat another capable sort in Stallwalkin’ Dude, recently a strong third in the Vosburgh (G1), in the $100,000 LeVine Memorial at Parx. Apparently not at his best in a restricted stakes at Saratoga, he could conceivably bounce back at a price.
#8 ALSVID (15-1) is another who seems a bit high on the morning line. Aside from a flop in the Smile Sprint (he isn’t the first to run below par in South Florida in the summertime), his form has been solid all season. He hit peak form taking the Count Fleet Sprint H. (G3) and Aristides, the latter over Work All Week, in consecutive starts, and enters off a get-fit, second-place effort in a grass allowance at Churchill.
The main track at Keeneland starts out muddy for opening day, and it will be worth taking note how it plays and possibly changes if it dries out during the course of the card.
(Alsvid photo: Oaklawn Paerk/Coady Photography)