The first of two graded stakes on Keeneland’s opening-day program, Friday’s $200,000 Phoenix (G2) will award an expenses-paid berth to the Nov. 7 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1). The 6-furlong test has been won by champions Runhappy, Work All Week, and Wise Dan in the last decade.
Recent Grade 2 scorer Diamond Oops heads a competitive field of 12. One of the most versatile horses in training, Diamond Oops counted a pair of Grade 3 dirt sprint wins, and a second in the A.G. Vanderbilt (G1) at Saratoga, among his efforts last year. He also finished a half-length second in the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1), just missing a guaranteed spot in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1).
Trained by Patrick Biancone, Diamond Oops made a couple of starts on Gulfstream’s main track over the winter, including a fourth in the Pegasus World Cup (G1) at 1 1/8 miles. The 5-year-old gelding posted a rallying win when switching surfaces for the Sept. 4 Twin Spires Turf Sprint (G2) at Churchill Downs, closing last-to-first in the 12-horse field, and Florent Geroux has the return mount on the Kentucky-bred son of Lookin at Lucky.
Grade 1 winner Whitmore captured the 2017 Phoenix and has finished second in the last two editions. Runner-up in the A.G. Vanderbilt two back, the 7-year-old gelding did not favor the sloppy going in the Forego (G1) when seventh last time. A two-time stakes victor earlier this season, Whitmore has earned more than $3.1 million, and Joe Talamo has the call for Ron Moquett.
A pair of Grade 1-winning 3-year-olds, Echo Town and No Parole, will make their start against elders. Echo Town captured the H. Allen Jerkens Memorial (G1) at Saratoga two back, and the Steve Asmussen-trained colt will try to rebound from an even fifth as the favorite in the Pat Day Mile (G2). No Parole, who smoked the competition leading wire-to-wire in the Woody Stephens (G1) on the Belmont Stakes undercard, is also seeking a turnaround performance following a ninth as the favorite in the Jerkens.
Other runners of interest include Lexitonian, a nose second in the Bing Crosby (G1) at Del Mar two back; last-out stakes winner Absolutely Aiden; Grade 3 runner-up Copper Town; and Midnight Sands, who had a five-race win streak snapped when finishing a close third in his U.S. debut on the Kentucky Derby undercard.