by Jeremy Plonk
October 26, 2019
The curtain closes on the Keeneland Fall Meet on Saturday, but not before the stand offers one more graded stakes. The G2 $200,000 Fayette Stakes at 1-1/8 miles on the main track serves as a potential springboard to races like the G1 Clark in November and potentially the G1 Pegasus World Cup in January. It's where Blame in 2009 stamped himself as a 4-year-old to watch. It's been a pretty formful race with all 5 winners since the return to dirt at Keeneland returning 8-1 or less.
G2 winner CORE BELIEFS has faced some of the top handicap horses in the nation. BAL HARBOUR and TOM'S D'ETAT comprised half the superfecta in the G1 Woodward. MR. FREEZE recently scored at the G3 level, as did THE GREAT DAY and MOCITO ROJO. EVERFAST was runner-up in this year's G1 Preakness and TENFOLD was third in the 2018 middle jewel of the Triple Crown. While there's not a devastating class edge here, it's hard to argue that CORE BELIEFS hasn't danced the toughest dances along with TENFOLD.
MR. FREEZE stretches out around 2 turns and should be forward with an aggressive gate jockey in Robby Albarado and inside draw. MOCITO ROJO and TOM'S d'ETAT should be a part of a pressing group that also could include CORE BELIEFS and BAL HARBOR. This should be a fair pace for 9 furlongs with no big edges.
MR FREEZE was impressive in the Ack Ack for his first real test as a 4-year-old. Last year's West Virginia Derby winner showed at 3 that he could handle distance and he's been progressed nicely to this spot. Dale Romans contemplated the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, but the Fayette and Clark Handicap seem to be very smart for this guy. The Cigar Mile also could be in the offing back around 1 turn. Romans won this race in 2014 with Pick of the Litter and MR FREEZE appears more talented than that one. With sophomore uncoupled barnmate EVERFAST such a deep closer, the Romans charges will compliment eachother on style. EVERFAST will try to become the first sophomore to win this since Blame in 2009.
TOM'S d'ETAT made a middle-move in the Woodward and came up short in the end. Joel Rosario times moves as well as anyone, winning the Alydar on this runner the last time they paired together. Look for him to be just off the tempo and make them sweat in the lane as a major threat.
MOCITO ROJO brings a 5-race win streak from the mid-South that was validated with an 8-1 upset in the G3 Lukas Classic at Churchill Downs. Trainer Shane Wilson has spotted him shrewdly all season and this one should stack up with these. Don't be surprised if this one is overlooked on the tote once again for low-profile connections. Anything above 5-1 would be an overlay.
CORE BELIEFS is well-traveled and takes his track with him, witnessed by a road win in the New Orleans Handicap and the Ohio Derby the past 2 seasons. He gets away from the faster California action and should be steady-paced throughout this one.
Most Certain Exotics Contender: BAL HARBOUR has a win over the track and 8 straight superfecta finishes. Trainer Todd Pletcher won this race in 2015 via Saratoga with Raceday. BAL HARBOUR should get a stalking trip and have every chance to land on the ticket.
Best Longshot Exotics Contender: Pedigree play BIG DOLLAR BILL is by Midnight Lute, whose dirt routers at Keeneland have been dynamite in recent years. BIG DOLLAR BILL is 3-for-3 locally and trainer Ian Wilkes has had success in closing weeks at Keeneland Fall Meets in recent years, saving some good bullets for when things thin out a bit.
Sending it in ($100 bankroll): $50 win BIG DOLLAR BILL. $10 exacta part-wheel MR FREEZE, TOM'S d'ETAT, MOCITO ROJO, CORE BELIEFS and BAL HARBOUR over BIG DOLLAR BILL.