Quality horses to contest Fayette Stakes

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Alastair Bull

October 26th, 2017

Multiple stakes winners, a former Kentucky Derby favorite, and grade one placegetters descend on Keeneland Oct. 28 for the 1 1/8-mile Fayette Stakes (G2).

With a lineup featuring many horses that have been chasing Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) contenders like Arrogate, Gun Runner, and West Coast this year, this is a chance for many of them to get a welcome stakes win.

Favoritism may be contested between Honorable Duty, a three-time graded stakes winner this season, and multiple grade one placegetter Neolithic.

Honorable Duty has run five times in 2017. He won the Mineshaft Handicap (G3) and New Orleans Handicap (G2) at Fair Grounds in winter, before finishing second on sloppy ground in the Alysheba Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs. He was no match for Gun Runner in the Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) at Churchill Downs in June, but returned to the same track to win the Lukas Classic Stakes (G3) Sept. 30.

Neolithic has yet to win a stakes race, but he’s earned more than $2 million this year. He began the year finishing third to Arrogate in the Pegasus World Cup (G1) before filling the same position behind Arrogate and Gun Runner in the Dubai World Cup. He then won a Saratoga allowance before finishing third 11 ½ lengths behind Gun Runner – beaten twice as far as in Dubai – in the Woodward Stakes (G1) at Saratoga.

Two of the better 3-year-olds this season take on older horses for the first time. McCraken was the winter favorite for the Kentucky Derby (G1) but though he won twice at grade three level this year, his campaign did not all go according to plan. He finished eighth in the Derby after being bumped at the start, a close second to Girvin in the Haskell Invitational (G1), and seventh behind West Coast in the Travers (G1)

Just ahead of McCraken in the Travers was Giuseppe the Great. The somewhat underrated colt twice finished ahead of Classic winners Always Dreaming and Cloud Computing this summer, when placing second to Good Samaritan in the Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) and in the Travers. At his most recent start he finished third behind West Coast and Irap in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1).

The Player, second in the one-mile Ack Ack Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs Sept. 30, steps up in class here. Malibu Pro, promoted to first when scoring his first stakes win in the 1 1/16-mile John Bullit Stakes at Canterbury Park Sept. 15, and Fear the Cowboy, a well-beaten fourth to Honorable Duty in the Lukas Classic, complete the field.

Neolithic and Honorable Duty have the best form in the race. Both are strong win chances, Honorable Duty perhaps a shade better given his better winning record. McCraken will probably appreciate a return to Kentucky, while Giuseppe the Great should definitely be included in multiples.