A Minnesota bred is the 7 to 2 second choice on the morning line on opening day Friday at Keeneland in the $350,000 Grade 2 Phoenix Stakes at six furlongs. That’s correct. Doctor Oscar, Canterbury Park’s 2023 horse of the meet, is 7 to 2 in a Breeders’ Cup Win And You’re In event.
record a triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure this year. The favorite, 6-year-old Bango, ran a 100 and 105 in back-to-back starts at Churchill in late spring. Sibelius ran a 100 at Tampa Bay Downs in the Pelican Stakes on Feb. 11, beating Doctor Oscar by 1 1/4 lengths. Sibelius won the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen in his next start. Since returning to the states his two efforts have been lackluster.
The 102 Beyer for Doctor Oscar came in a 6 1/2 furlong allowance romp July 3 at Canterbury. “He got a 102 but watch that race and Alonso was standing up at the wire,” Richard Grunder, Quinonez’ Canterbury agent, said. “Imagine if he was on his belly riding.” Grunder will make the trip to Keeneland from his homebase in Tampa. “I’m 71. I thought I’d seen it all. A Minnesota bred with a chance to win a Grade 2 at Keeneland. I’m getting on a plane Thursday.”
The Phoenix will be race 7 on a 10-race card that begins at noon central time with a projected 3:12 p.m. post.
Mattson will of course be in attendance with plans to stay for a week as several other horses he owns also will run. But none bigger than Doctor Oscar. “It goes to show, there is no reason a Minnesota bred can’t compete,” he said. That is an approach he has used for several years. Mattson breeds to run anywhere.
As for the Phoenix, he is optimistic. “We’re pretty much the speed in the race,” he said. Doctor Oscar has done his best when on the lead. “We have a decent post. We did not want to be on the rail,” he said.
Two-year-old Minnesota-bred General Battle Axe, second in the Northern Lights Futurity, will race Saturday in an allowance and Crocodilehunter, a 3-year-old Mattson co-owns with Padilla, races Sunday.
Mike and Vicki McGowan’s Xtreme Racing Stables LLC are also active on opening day. Xtreme Smoke Show, a Kentucky-bred debut maiden winner in Shakopee, is entered in race 4.
Cupids Crush, a 3-year-old Minnesota bred filly and a star this summer at Canterbury, is entered in race 5. She will run on the grass for the second time in her career, this time sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs. Her first turf start was a gate to wire win in the $75,000 Curtis Sampson Oaks in June at Canterbury. Mac Robertson trains both for the McGowans.