March 2, 2024

Competitive group headlines Fayette Stakes

Hofburg winning the Curlin (c) Susie Raisher/Adam Coglianese Photography

by John Mucciolo

The $200,000 Fayette Stakes (G2) is the Saturday feature at Keeneland. Seven horses will travel 1 1/8 miles on the dirt in what looks like a very competitive event, with five in the field already accomplished at the graded-stakes level.

Highly-rated sophomore HOFBURG (#6) (5-2) has yet to beat graded foes but he will get support in this spot, nonetheless. The Bill Mott trainee grabbed attention when closing for second in the Florida Derby (G1) in March. Following a seventh-place run in the Kentucky Derby (G1), the Tapit colt finished third in the Belmont Stakes (G1) prior to winning his first black-type event in the Curlin Stakes at Saratoga. The chestnut was unplaced last time in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1) and will have Jose Ortiz in the irons.

LEOFRIC (#5) (5-2) has been consistently good for conditioner Brad Cox, having won or placed in nine consecutive races. The five-year-old son of Candy Ride is a Grade 3 hero and was most recently third in the Woodward Stakes (G1) after leading inside the final furlong. Florent Geroux, who guided him home in the West Virginia Governor’s Stakes (G3) two prior, will be in the stirrups.

Grade 3 victor PRIME ATTRACTION (#1) (2-1) invades from the Golden State for conditioner James Cassidy. The dark bay son of Unbridled’s Song is talented and versatile, proving himself to be a high-class horse on both dirt and the turf. The five-year-old has run up against leading Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) contender Accelerate in his five previous dirt attempts and he should appreciate the class relief here. Kent Desormeaux rides.

RATED R SUPERSTAR (#7) (10-1) draws outside for trainer Kenny McPeek. The Kodiak Kowboy gelding was an impressive last-to-first winner of the Ben Ali Stakes (G3) at Keeneland in the spring. The chestnut five-year-old is winless since but has run some of his best races at the Lexington, Kentucky, venue. Brian Hernandez Jr. will be rallying the contender from off the pace once again.

Steve Asmussen’s HENCE (#3) (10-1) rides into the Fayette with stakes tallies in two of his last three assignments. The four-year-old son of Street Boss will likely take back early on and make one run in the stretch under the guidance of Ricardo Santana Jr. The dual Grade 3 hero will aim for his first Keeneland score.

Buff Bradley’s NICE NOT NICE (#2) (10-1) brings the best form of his career into the Fayette. The gelded son of Twirling Candy is yet to win a stakes but came close last time, finishing second in a sharp field in the Ack Ack Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs. The four-year-old could be a top-three contender with another step forward beneath Gabriel Saez.

SCUBA (#4) (15-1) is hoping to regain the form that saw him take the Marathon Stakes (G2) on the 2016 Breeders’ Cup undercard at Santa Anita Park. The Brendan Walsh-trained son of Tapit is just one-for-12 since his biggest coup, but he could be interesting in a field without an abundance of early pace. Tyler Gaffalione inherits the mount atop the gelding.