10/07/2011 5:27PM

Keeneland: Hoofit upsets in Phoenix

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Keeneland/Coady Photography
Hoofit (right), with Edgar Prado riding, defeats Aikenite (John Velazquez up) by a nose in the Phoenix.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - It wasn't quite as famous as the race he won in Kentucky in the spring, nor as big an upset, nor as clear-cut. Still, Graham Motion will certainly take it.

Motion was the winning trainer Friday for the Grade 3, $175,000 Phoenix Stakes on opening day of the Keeneland fall meet when Hoofit, under a clever ride from Edgar Prado, held off a sustained rally by Aikenite to prevail by a nose as an 11-1 outsider.

Motion, the transplanted Englishman who in May sent out Animal Kingdom to a convincing victory in the 137th Kentucky Derby at 20-1, said he believed a terrific American debut for Hoofit was enough to earn the 4-year-old New Zealand-bred gelding a berth in the six-furlong Phoenix. Hoofit won a Sept. 2 allowance sprint over the synthetic surface at Presque Isle Downs after 16 races in his native land.

"I was looking at the tape of his race at Presque Isle and thought it was too good to believe," said Motion. "He was just so impressive that night that I thought we'd take a shot in here, even though I knew the competition would be very tough."

Besides a $105,000 winner's share, the 159th Phoenix also carried a Win and You're In designation toward the Nov. 5 Breeders' Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs, although Motion seemed skeptical that the Breeders' Cup would be next for Hoofit, owned by Mrs. S.K. "Gil" Johnston.

"He's a gelding, he's not nominated, and he's never raced on dirt, so we'll have to talk it over," said Motion.

BREEDERS' CUP CHALLENGE: Racing schedule, replays, and past winners »

With Prado saving ground, Hoofit came through a rail opening for the stretch drive, surged past front-runners Flashpoint and Sterling Outlook, then out-nodded the steadily-closing Aikenite on the wire. The winner finished in 1:09.27 over Polytrack and returned $25.60 as the second-longest choice in a field of seven.

"I rode him with a lot of confidence," said Prado.

Aikenite, the 2-1 second choice, overcame a track that clearly favored speed and inside runners the entire afternoon in a gallant effort. The 4-year-old colt circled the field late in the turn to enter contention, only to barely miss becoming the first horse in 16 years to sweep the Commonwealth Stakes in the spring and the Phoenix in the fall. According to Trakus, Aikenite traveled 35 feet farther than Hoofit, which translates to a little more than four lengths.

Hamazing Destiny finished third, another 1 3/4 lengths back, with Flashpoint, the 13-10 favorite, fading to fourth. The order was rounded out by Cool Bullet, Southern Style, and Sterling Outlook.

The Phoenix, the oldest stakes race in America, was first run in 1831 at the old Kentucky Association track in Lexington.