Analysis: Promises Fulfilled towers over Phoenix rivals

October 03, 2018 09:16am
On paper, the idea that Promises Fulfilled could lose cleanly the Grade 2, $250,000 Phoenix Stakes on Friday at Keeneland is near inconceivable. The Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) winner back in February has developed into an impressive sprinter, and he seems ready for older horses given how unstoppable he has looked in his last few races.

After a failed run in the Kentucky Derby, trainer Dale Romans decided to cut the horse back in distance, and Promises Fulfilled rewarded the connections with a pace-compromised third in the Woody Stephens (G2), followed by sharp wins in the Amsterdam (G3) and H. Allen Jerkens Stakes (G1) to cap off an excellent summer.

In fact, Promises Fulfilled is one of the most talented sprinters seen in the past few years. His strong pace and speed figures from those races back up this opinion.

According to TimeformUS, when Promises Fulfilled set the pace in the Woody Stephens with World of Trouble, he opened with a wicked pace figure of 175.  

For those who do not use TimeformUS, a fast pace figure is typically in the 140 to 160 range. To go beyond those numbers is insane and leads to a collapse.

Promises Fulfilled and World of Trouble somehow kept fighting toward the end, with Promises Fulfilled holding third by a neck over his speedy rival. World of Trouble has won two straight grass races since then, including the Allied Forces by more than five lengths.

Meanwhile, Promises Fulfilled and Woody Stephens runner-up Engage met in the six-furlong Amsterdam at Saratoga, and not only did Promises Fulfilled hold off Woody Stephens runner-up Engage this time, he recorded a 130 TimeformUS Speed Figure. 

In a good sign of versatility, Promises Fulfilled also sat one length off his old rival Strike Power in the first quarter. The opening pace figures were 134 and 134.

Then came the Allen Jerkens later in the meet, and this time Promises Fulfilled set a modestly fast pace, opening up with 134 and 141 TimeformUS Pace Figures.

Notice where all the horses near Promises Fulfilled end up. Gidu, who chased Promises Fulfilled in second, folded back to seventh. Engage made the same exact move on the far turn as he did in the Amsterdam, only to fade late into fourth.

Promises Fulfilled completed the seven furlongs in 1:21.44, roughly the same time as Whitmore’s 1:21.46 in the Forego Stakes (G1) later on. But the Beyer Speed Figures of 99 and 104 do not reflect this as the Beyer team believes the track slowed down.

On TimeformUS, where numbers are pace-adjusted, Promises Fulfilled received a stunning 131, compared to Whitmore’s ho-hum 124 with a perfect trip.

So, who is more trustworthy? It may not even matter in this situation, as the Pace Projector codes the Phoenix Stakes in blue (meaning slow) with Promises Fulfilled on the lead. When a talented speed horse coasts on a soft lead, the race is usually over.

Whitmore deserves credit for clawing his way back to the top of this division. However, his time is coming to an end. Promises Fulfilled is the clear choice in the Phoenix.

One-hundred percent locks almost never exist in horse racing, though. What if California sprinter Distinctive B decides to go on a suicide mission early and duel with Promises Fulfilled? Promises Fulfilled is supposed to handle cheap heat, but maybe there is a chance Whitmore can take advantage of a pace meltdown if it happens.  

As mentioned above, Whitmore received a higher Beyer than Promises Fulfilled for his sneaky Forego win, at the same distance and card. So he owns credentials as well.

However, Whitmore also had a perfect trip slipping through the rail. The trip affected the thinking towards the 104 Beyer, as Beyer explained through an email his team considered it unreasonable for him to earn a lower number than usual with such a dream run.  

To recap Whitmore's earlier races this year, he also finished second in the Belmont Sprint Championship (G2) and True North Stakes (G2), after a troubled fourth in the Churchill Downs Stakes (G2) and win in the Count Fleet Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn. 

He rebounded his career, which went on the wrong path last year. While Whitmore won the Phoenix Stakes last fall, he appeared flat back then with a low speed figure, and backed this opinion up by finishing eighth in the Breeders’ Cup.   

The 5-year-old gelding appears in top form right now. But this spot is difficult with the pace scenario and talented 3-year-old Promises Fulfilled entered. He needs his best. 

Limousine Liberal is another runner to consider, and this 6-year-old gelding ran third in the Forego after rallying wide. He kind of spun his wheels in the lane without gaining.

Previously, he won the Belmont Sprint Championship by a neck over Whitmore, so on his best day, Limousine Liberal is on par with him. In addition, finishing in the money 20 out of 24 times is an impressive feat for any horse. With pace help, he can win.

Heartwood and Dalmore complete the field, and neither of them are a serious threat. Heartwood belongs in optional claimers at Keeneland, while Dalmore is a router who lost all five attempts sprinting. His presence in the field is strange.  

Include those two impossible longshots underneath if necessary, but they will need to run their absolute best races to hit the board.

Promises Fulfilled looks close to a lock in this spot. Here is the kind of horse who can withstand a fast pace and keep going, which is a lethal combination. He holds the potential to become one of the best sprinters of the decade if he does not retire.

Whitmore and Limousine Liberal are nice graded stakes runners, but that is all. Neither of them will become special sprinters in their careers going forward.

Promises Fulfilled’s betting value is unclear, as the odds may dip lower than his morning line. But hopefully this assumption is wrong and he runs at 2-1 or higher. He is a confident “A” in the Pick 4, while Whitmore and Limousine Liberal are “Bs.”


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Meet Reinier Macatangay

My first time at the racetrack came as a 5-year-old kid at Santa Anita Park. For most of my younger life, that was the only track I attended other the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. 

Years later, after graduating California State University, Stanislaus with an English MA, I began writing for Lady and the Track. From late 2014-2016, my articles were seen on a weekly basis and covered handicapping, interviews with well-known racing personalities, fashion and more. 

The handicapping style I use concentrates on pace analysis. Some horses are compromised by the pace. Others are helped. Handicappers just starting out cannot easily see how pace affects the finish, so with this blog, I hope to help those unsure of how to apply pace into their handicapping and post-race analysis. 

On an unrelated note, I enjoy video games and attending anime or comic-book conventions. I am currently based in Kentucky, but spend a lot of time traveling between there and California.

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