TimeformUS Weekend Stakes Play: The Grade 2 Fayette at Keeneland

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The Grade 2 Fayette at Keeneland

Keeneland / October 25 / Race 9 / 5:13 EDT

by TimeformUS Analyst Mike Beer

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Saturday's Grade 2 Fayette Stakes has a field of eight set to travel 9 furlongs over the Keeneland dirt. Although it is somewhat difficult to buy into some of the bigger prices on the ML, this does seem like the kind of race where looking for alternatives to the favorites is an advisable strategy.

Pace Projector favors the runners on or near the early lead and places #5 Call Me George on a loose lead at the opening 1/2-mile.  Perhaps that makes him a longshot worth giving an additional look, but we aren't buying him in this race, loose lead or not.

There are three horses pegged at either 5/2 or 3/1 on the ML, and, who knows, maybe the race will even be bet that way, but certainly #2 Departing (5/2) and #7 Long River (3/1) are two horses who are going to take plenty of money.  They are also projected to be in cozy trips up close to the pace. 

Departing is the actual ML favorite and feels like the horse they will have to beat in the Fayette.  A multiple graded stakes winner, he has posted TFUS Speed Figures of 113-112-94-112 in his four starts as a four-year-old.  He won only one of those races, however, and that was against allowance company right off the layoff.  He can trip out in here, and he is the horse to beat.  Because we have had difficulty finding alternatives, we will be using Departing, but we have to take at least a small shot against him on the win end.

Long River has been one of our favorites in NY, and he has top connections, though overall he has been a disappointment, winning just a couple of overnight stakes races in his career while failing at short prices several times over at the graded stakes level.  He enters the Fayette off a career-best performance in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup when completely overlooked in the wagering, and he is certain to be a major factor if he can reproduce that race on Saturday.  He will be a short price, however, and we don't trust him so much that we can take him as either the favorite or a close second choice.

Stephanoatsee is the other 3/1 shot on the ML, though we are having some trouble figuring out why.  He has never proven himself to be of graded stakes quality and figures to have little pace in front to set up his late run.  We realize that many consider his effort in the Grade 1 Woodward two starts back to be the best race of his career, but to us, he just picked up some pieces after getting a perfect closers ride from Joel Rosario.  Perhaps we are completely wrong about him, but we will gladly be so if he is anywhere close to his ML price in this race.

For alternatives, we could go to either Pick of the Litter, a game, grinding type of horse who will enter the Fayette off a career-top TFUS Speed Figure performance in the Homecoming Classic last month, or Mister Marti Gras.  Of those two, we will give preference to Mister Marti Gras.  He lacks speed, a drawback considering the expected pace scenario, but is a horse who is clearly fast enough to compete with the likes of Departing and Long River on his best day, and he'll be a price.

Mister Marti Gras is that rare horse who can run his race over any surface: top TFUS Speed Figure on dirt: 113; on turf: 108; on synthetic: 117.  He races on dirt infrequently these days, but in his last seven attempts on it, a span that dates back to April 1 of 2012, he has run TFUS Speed Figures of 112 or 113 five times.  If he can come up with a figure like that on Saturday, he is a threat to Departing and faster than Long River.

The Play:  Assuming the ML price holds up, we will bet Mister Marti Gras to win in the Fayette.  We will also play Mister Marti Gras on top of Pick of the Litter in a small exacta, and we will box Mister Marti Gras with Departing.


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