10/06/2010 4:32PM

Warrior's Reward will be running late in Phoenix

Tom Keyser
Warrior’s Reward is expected to do his best running late in Friday’s Grade 3 Phoenix.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Warrior’s Reward is 4, but the way he has run in his races, he’s acting like a teenager whose rallying cry is “Leave me alone!” When allowed to settle and make a run, he has performed well. But when asked to scoot as soon as the gate opens, he has disappointed. Lesson learned, according to trainer Ian Wilkes.

“The one time he didn’t run well this year, in the Met Mile, I screwed up,” Wilkes said Wednesday morning. “We didn’t let him run his race. He doesn’t want to be put on the front end – at least until the wire.”

Wilkes is hoping Warrior’s Reward will get an ideal setup Friday, when he competes in the day’s supporting feature, the Grade 3, $175,000 Phoenix Stakes for older sprinters at six furlongs. The Phoenix, through the Win and You’re In program, offers an automatic berth into the BC Sprint on Nov. 6 at Churchill Downs, where Warrior’s Rewards is based. But whether Warrior’s Reward runs there, or in the BC Dirt Mile, is a decision yet to be made.

Warrior’s Reward finished strongly for fourth last time out in the Forego at Saratoga, losing by two lengths to division leaders Here Comes Ben, Big Drama, and Vineyard Haven. That was his first start since finishing sixth in the Metropolitan Handicap. Earlier this year, though, he was second on Derby Day in the Churchill Downs and won the Grade 1 Carter, both at seven furlongs.

Complicating the evaluation process is that Warrior’s Reward will have his final BC tune-up on a synthetic surface, over which he is unproven. He ran once here, last fall, and finished fifth as the even-money favorite in the Perryville, though Wilkes chalks that up to the aggressive tactics that have since been abandoned. Still, Warrior’s Reward will have to be at his best, because he is facing 10 rivals, several of whom have excellent form on synthetics.

Chief among them is Hollywood Hit, the speedy Canadian who is an absolute freak at Woodbine, which, like Keeneland, runs its main-track races on Polytrack.

Hollywood Hit has crossed the wire first in six of his last seven starts, all at Woodbine, where he most recently captured the King Corrie on Sept. 22. Though trained by Terry Jordan, he will run in the name of Jordan’s assistant, Anita Bolton, who accompanied Hollywood Hit to Keeneland.

Hollywood Hit will be difficult to run down as only Goldzar appears capable of offering an early challenge.

One of the late threats should be Canonize, who is making his first start since April but has a history of running well fresh.