LEXINGTON, KY – Woodford Racing’s Engage made it two-for-two with new trainer Steve Asmussen on Friday, striking the front in mid-stretch before fighting gamely late to win the $250,000 Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix Stakes (G2) at Keeneland.
The Phoenix is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, with Engage receiving an automatic berth in the Sprint at Santa Anita Park this November.
Breaking from post 8 under Jose Ortiz, Engage sat off the early pace toward the rear while the 9/5 favorite Promises Fulfilled and the 84/1 longest shot Zipp On By dueled up front. The pair set an opening pace of :22.22 and :45.43 while behind them, Ortiz had Engage moving wide through the far turn.
Hitting the top of the stretch running five-wide, Engage dug in and began grinding away toward the front. After taking the lead near the 1/16 pole, Engage continued fighting and refused to let anyone gain ground before he crossed a 1/2-length ahead.
The winner posted a final time of 1:10.21 for the 6-furlong sprint over the fast main track.
“He’s a very game horse,” said Ortiz, who rode Engage for nine of his ten starts when he was with original trainer Chad Brown. “I know him very well and I appreciate the opportunity they gave me to ride him back. (The race unfolded) very good. I was expecting an honest pace, but they weren’t going that fast, so I was able to lay close. The last 1/16, he felt some horses coming – he pins his ears back and keeps going.”
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