Hog Creek Hustle 'earned the right' to face Phoenix elders

October 02, 2019 09:45am

Trainer Vickie Foley believes the time is right for Grade 1 winner Hog Creek Hustle -- who she considers “one of the best come-from-behind sprinters in the country” -- to face older horses.

“He’s earned that challenge,” Foley said in a recent interview with the Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association. “My team, we all agree he’s earned the right to do that. This time of year you’ve got to start running with older horses.

Hog Creek Hustle will get that opportunity Friday as a contender in Keeneland’s Grade 2, $250,000 Phoenix Stakes. Breaking from post 6, he’ll face some accomplished foes in the "Win and You're In" race toward the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

Multiple graded stakes winner Promises Fulfilled won the 2018 Phoenix and has won twice in two starts at Keeneland. He drew just outside of Hog Creek Hustle in post 7.

Whitmore, another multiple graded stakes winner in the field, won the 2017 version of the Phoenix and finished second to Promises Fulfilled last year. Whitmore drew post 3.

Diamond Oops, in post 5, is a graded stakes winner who won the Smile Sprint Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park in June and was last seen finishing second to Imperial Hint in the Vanderbilt (G1) at Saratoga at the end of July.

But Hog Creek Hustle’s building a nice resume of his own. After winning the Woody Stephens (G1) in early June at Belmont Park, he nearly made it back-to-back wins at the top level when denied by Mind Control in a blanket finish to the H. Allen Jerkens Stakes (G1) at Saratoga.

Given 10 career starts for the son of Overanalyze, Foley knows what to expect Friday at Keeneland.

“If he runs his race, you can set your watch by it,” she said. “At the 3/8ths (pole), get ready because he’s coming.”

Hog Creek Hustle, who’s out of the Candy Ride mare Candy Fortune, survived a closer look by the stewards to stay up in the Woody Stephens before ending on the wrong side of a head bob in the Allen Jerkens.

Reflecting on the latter result, “He ran fantastic,” Foley said. “I think (jockey) Corey Lanerie thought he won the race. He put his stick up in the air. It was heartbreaking, but (Hog Creek Hustle) thought he won.”

Should he pull out a victory against elders in his first try, it would add to the resume of a colt that began his 3-year-old season on the Derby trail. After a eighth-place finish in the Louisiana Derby (G2), Foley chose to cut Hog Creek Hustle back in the Pat Day Mile (G3), and he responded by running second to Mr. Money.

Now that she has his optimal distance dialed in, Foley is confident she’ll get a top effort in the Phoenix, which goes as Race 8 on Friday at 4:57 p.m. ET.

“He’s just a true race horse with a big heart,” she said, “and he’s gonna give it all he has.”

2019 Phoenix (G2)


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