10/03/2012 12:58PM

Keeneland: Phoenix marks Aikenite's first race since retirement

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Tom Keyser
Aikenite hasn't raced since the Breeders' Cup Sprint. He'll make his return in the Phoenix.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Retired by Dogwood Stable in March, graded stakes winner Aikenite found no immediate takers among stud farms, with the 2012 breeding season already underway.

Pulled out of retirement and returning in Friday’s Grade 3, $175,000 Phoenix on opening day at Keeneland, he seems likely to receive more interest, albeit this time from the wagering public. Having compiled a record of 2 wins and 2 seconds from 5 starts over Keeneland’s synthetic Polytrack surface, he is a co-second choice on the track’s program at 4-1 odds with Sum of the Parts, right behind his uncoupled stablemate, 3-1 favorite Doctor Chit.

A troublesome ankle, which sparked his ill-timed retirement while in training in Florida this year, has responded well to rest and veterinary treatments, leaving him ready for his return, Dogwood president Cot Campbell noted.

“We always said, if he tells us to stop, we’ll stop,” Campbell said of the Aikenite’s comeback. “And he didn’t.”

But opposed to what is typical for a well-known boxer retuning from long hiatus from the ring, his first match back isn’t a gimme. The Phoenix, a Win and You’re In qualifying race for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, is an above-average Grade 3 race, and he is not alone in having shown an affinity for racing over synthetic surfaces.

[KEENELAND: Get opening-day PPs, watch Friday's full card live]

Doctor Chit and Sum of the Parts are each 2 for 2 on it. Doctor Chit won a maiden race at Keeneland in the spring with a 97 Beyer Speed Figure, and followed that with a first-level allowance score at Woodbine; and Sum of the Parts romped in an entry-level allowance at Keeneland on April 20 before winning the Tom Ridge Stakes at Presque Isle on the synthetic Tapeta surface there May 15.

Both have remained sharp in stakes restricted to 3-year-olds since. Doctor Chit won the Western Lara on the Belmont main track before a second in the Grade 2 Amsterdam and a fourth in the Grade 1 King’s Bishop at Saratoga. And Sum of the Parts won the $400,000 Red Legend at Charles Town, only to subsequently finish second in the $80,000 Groovy Stakes on grass at Belmont.

Although Aikenite will be at a recency disadvantage, not having raced since a fourth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint last November, as a late finisher he could prove the recipient of a favorable pace set-up – with at least five of the 10 entries being regular front-runners, including the other race favorites.

John Velazquez, aboard for four of Aikenite’s five victories, returns in the irons for trainer Todd Pletcher.

Other notable Phoenix entries include millionaire Noble’s Promise, winner of the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland in 2009, and Lonesome Street, winner of the Grade 2 Commonwealth at Keeneland on April 14.