August 12, 2022

Engage earns Breeders’ Cup Sprint spot in upset of Phoenix

Engage wins 2019 Phoenix S. at Keeneland
Engage wins 2019 Phoenix S. at Keeneland (Coady Photo/Keeneland)

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Trainer Steve Asmussen currently has the likely favorite for next month’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) in Mitole, but it doesn’t hurt to have backup.

Making just his second start for Asmussen, Woodford Racing’s Engage punched his own ticket to the Sprint at Santa Anita with a 9-1 upset victory in the $250,000 Phoenix (G2) before a sun-splashed crowd of 16,427 on opening day of the Keeneland fall meet.

Ridden by Jose Ortiz, Engage rallied from off the pace to take the six-furlong Phoenix by a half-length over Whitmore, who edged 46-1 chance Lexitonian for third by a nose. Engage paid $21 after completing the distance in 1:10.21 over a fast track.

“It was really nice to see that horse dig in,” Asmussen said.

The Phoenix, a “Win & You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge prep, also included last year’s winner Promises Fulfilled, who finished sixth in his title defense as the 19-10 favorite.

Starting his career with Chad Brown, Engage captured the 2017 Futurity (G3) and won the $100,000 Gold Fever at Belmont last season. His stakes placings included the Woody Stephens (G2), Amsterdam (G2), and Bay Shore (G3), but he ran fourth in each of his final three starts for Brown.

Engage debuted for Asmussen on the Labor Day program at Parx, where he captured the $100,000 Bensalem by a half-length.

“He’s always been a quality horse,” Asmussen said. “We felt good about his chances when we saw him over the track here at Keeneland.”

Engage has now earned $649,080 from a line of 12-5-4-0.

Bred in Kentucky by Woods Edge Farm, Engage is by Into Mischief and out of the stakes-placed Nefertiti, by Speightstown. The four-year-old’s second dam was the multiple Grade 3 winner Clearly a Queen.

Engage wins 2019 Phoenix S. at Keeneland (Coady Photo/Keeneland)