Special Reserve sped his way into next month’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) with a swift tally in Friday’s $250,000 Phoenix S. (G2), the co-feature on opening day of the Keeneland fall meet.
Breaking on top under Joel Rosario and then allowed to settle in behind Quick Tempo through an opening quarter in :21.90, Special Reserve took over from that rival on the far turn, opened up a bit in the stretch, and then had enough to fend off a late surge by Aloha West to win North America’s oldest stakes by a neck.
The 6-5 favorite in a field of seven, Special Reserve paid $4.40 after completing six furlongs over a fast track in 1:08.54. Mucho finished two lengths behind Aloha West in third and was followed by Endorsed, Sir Alfred James, Just Might, and Quick Tempo.
Special Reserve has proven one of the best claims of 2021. Haltered for $40,000 from a season-opening win at Oaklawn in early February, the five-year-old gelding has finished first or second in all six outings for owners Paradise Farms and David Staudacher, and trainer Mike Maker.
“When we got him, he was a pretty significant bleeder,” Maker said. “We put him through our program and treated him, and he’s responded great for us. The horse is all class and heart.”
An allowance winner off the bat for his new connections, Special Reserve was next second to Flagstaff in the Commonwealth (G3) at Keeneland over seven furlongs. Shortened back to six panels, he earned back-to-back wins in the Maryland Sprint (G3) at Pimlico and the Iowa Sprint at Prairie Meadows before missing by a half-length to longshot Lexitonian in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt H. (G1).
“The only hitch in our plan (to qualify for the Breeders’ Cup) was getting beat at Saratoga,” Maker said.
Bred in Kentucky by the Russell Reineman Stable, Special Reserve is by Midshipman and out of Love Spun, a Hard Spun half-sister to Grade 3 winner Original Spin and the multiple stakes-winning Humor at Last. Special Reserve now sports a record of 22-8-2-7, $638,647.