LEXINGTON, Ky. — The $200,000 Fayette (G2), closing day feature of the Keeneland fall meet on Saturday, turned into a virtual two-horse race, but perhaps not the combination many expected beforehand.
After 1 1/8 miles over a sloppy track on a raw afternoon in Lexington, it was 8-1 chance The Player, with Calvin Borel in the irons, who bested Neolithic in a battle of two entrants both seeking their first stakes wins.
The two separated themselves from the pack early, with Neolithic setting a pace of :24.22, :47:47, and 1:11.27, and Neolithic rating in second a couple of lengths behind down the backside. Asked to challenge the long-time leader in upper stretch, The Player responded and drew off to win by three lengths in a time of 1:48.16.
“[The Player] was one of the last horses he bred,” said trainer Buff Bradley, referring to his late father, Fred. “We thought he would go a mile and an eighth, and today he showed it. You never know until you get down there and do it.”
Owned by Bradley in partnership with fellow co-breeder Carl Hurst, The Player paid $19.60.
Neolithic, the second choice in the field at 2-1 following third-place efforts in the Pegasus World Cup (G1), Dubai World Cup (G1), and Woodward (G1) earlier this year, was 10 lengths clear of three-year-old star McCraken. It was another 1 1/2 lengths back to Giuseppe the Great, who was followed by Malibu Pro and 7-5 favorite Honorable Duty.
Winner of his third and fourth career starts last season at three, The Player made his stakes debut and final run of 2016 in the Indiana Derby (G2), where he missed by less than a length to Cupid.
Off nearly a year, The Player returned to action in June, finishing third to Limousine Liberal in the $70,000 Kelly’s Landing. Sixth in the $200,000 West Virginia Governor’s at Mountaineer next out, The Player rebounded to take a one-mile allowance at Ellis Park and was most recently by a length to Awesome Slew in the Ack Ack (G3) at Churchill. His record now stands at 10-4-3-1, $345,085.
Bred in Kentucky, The Player is by Street Hero and out of Hour Queen, by Gilded Time. Hour Queen herself out of stakes winner Town Queen, who also reared Grade 3-placed stakes winner Queen’s Award.
The announced attendance at Keeneland Saturday was 14,310. Racing on the Kentucky circuit shifts to Churchill Downs on Sunday for a 21-day meet that runs through November 26.