Racing returns to Keeneland Friday for the opening day of the Fall meeting and the popular Florida-bred Aikenite makes a comeback as well.
Making is first start since finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint behind winner Amazombie at Churchill Downs in November, the 5-year-old Aikenite has been listed as the co-second choice in the morning line along with Sum of the Parts at 4-1 and behind program favorite Doctor Chit at 3-1 in the $175,000 Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix Stakes at six furlongs on Keeneland’s Polytrack main course.
The Grade 3 Phoenix is a “Win and You’re In” race with the winner receiving a fees-paid invitation to the Breeders’ Cup Xpressbet Sprint (G1) to be run at Santa Anita Race Course in Southern California Nov. 3.
Trained by Todd Pletcher for Dogwood Stables of Aiken, S.C., Aikenite is hoping to avenge his second-place finish in the Phoenix last year when he was just a nose behind winner Hoofit. Before that, the son of Yes It’s True and the Saint Ballado mare Silverlado ran one of the better races of his career when third to fellow Floridia native Jackson Bend and Jersey Town in the Grade 1 Forego Stakes at Saratoga in September of last year.
Bred in by Joe and Phyllis Bryant and Toni Jones’ Brylynn Farm Inc. located in Reddick, Fla., Aikenite had a streak of two consecutive Grade 2 stakes wins last year taking the Commonweath Stakes at Keeneland in April and the Churchill Downs Stakes in May. Pletcher has named jockey John Velazquez Jr. to ride Aikenite, who has drawn the rail.
Doctor Chit also comes into the Phoenix off a few losses having finished fourth to winner Willy Beamin in the Grade 1 Kings Bishop Stakes at Saratoga Aug. 25. Also trained by Pletcher, Doctor Chit was also second in the Grade 2 Amersterdam Stakes behind Florida-bred Currency Swap at Saratoga on July 29. Before that the 3-year-old son of War Front had rattled off three straight starting with his maiden score by eight lengths in April at Keeneland then a three-length allowance score over Woodbine Race Course in Canada, also over Poltrack. In his next start, Doctor Chit proved he could handle a natural dirt course when he took his first stakes race, the $85,000 Western Larla Stakes at Belmont Park on July 25. Pletcher has given the return mount aboard Doctor Chit to Ramon Dominquez and they will break from post five.
Also representing Florida is Cajun Breeze, who will break next to Aikenite in post two. It will be a bit of a challenge for the 4-year-old and trainer Michael Yates in the Phoenix as Cajun Breeze has not won since breaking his maiden at Gulfstream Park on Dec. 11 last year. Since then his best races have come when running second to fellow Florida-bred winner Soaring Stocks in the $150,000 Sunshine Millions Sprint on Jan. 28 at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Fla., and again second in a $82,000 allowance race at Saratoga in August. Juan Leyva will ride Cajun Breeze while breaking next to Aikenite in post two.
Photo by Coglianese