10/25/2012 4:02PM

Byron King: Signs point to Salto in Fayette

Barbara D. Livingston
Some handicappers will be betting on a bounce from Salto.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Saturday’s closing-day Grade 2 Fayette at Keeneland looks on paper to be a closely matched race, with five of the 11 entrants being 5-1 shots or less on the morning line.

But watch some replays of the recent competitors, and a likely winner becomes apparent: Salto.

A former French runner, he was good enough to run second in the Group 1 Criterium International in October of 2010, but it wasn’t until two weeks ago that he ran a race potentially rivaling that one. Making his first start on Polytrack at Keeneland in a second-level allowance, he grabbed hold of the bridle under Javier Castellano, and once he was turned loose when out of traffic on the backstretch, the race was over.

He surged to the lead, picked up the tempo, and left his opponents breathing fire and unable to keep up. He crossed the wire nine lengths ahead of Gung Ho, a Grade 1-placed horse at Keeneland.

As he is coming back on two weeks’ rest and matched against more accomplished company, some handicappers will be betting on a bounce from Salto. While the timing isn’t ideal, he had plenty of spacing between his other starts this year, leaving him better able to handle the quick turnaround.

Looking past his last race, his other two starts this year were also very good. This summer at Saratoga he was unlucky to lose an allowance July 20, running into traffic problems in the stretch when fourth, and then on Sept. 1 he rallied to be second in the Grade 3 Cliffhanger at Monmouth after being unwisely restrained early behind a dawdling early pace.

Those two races came on turf, races that are often decided with a short burst of stretch acceleration. But given what we saw from Salto in his race at Keeneland on Polytrack, his strength lies in making a sustained run over a half-mile.

Admittedly, he isn’t without a couple of faults. He tends to break a little flat-footed, and he will be well backed coming from the Todd Pletcher stable, but to these eyes, he is just clearly the best horse.

With a reasonably clean break, expect him to get a favorable trip, liking getting a two-wide pressing trip behind likely pacesetter Take Charge Indy, who breaks just to his inside.

If he can grab that position, he can take the race to his opponents leaving the backstretch and likely prove difficult to catch in the stretch under Rosie Napravnik.

Selima, Laurel Futurity

Wet, windy weather is headed to the northeast if the predictions for Hurricane Sandy are accurate, but the inclement weather is expected to hold off for Laurel to complete a fine card on Saturday that includes six stakes races, including a number of turf stakes.

In particular, a pair of juvenile turf contests at 5 1/2 furlongs are appealing from a wagering perspective with those racings being the Selima for 2-year-old fillies and the Laurel Futurity for the juvenile males.

Because turf stakes for juveniles at this time of year are typically routes, these races are speed-laden, seemingly setting the stage for off-the-pace horses to capitalize.

In each case, the play will be a horse who has enough quickness to sit close, but who also has exhibited the ability to finish.

In the Selima, that horse is 12-1 outsider Hold Our Destiny. A former maiden $25,000 claimer, she has shown marked improvement at Laurel this meet, finishing second to fellow Selima starter Touring Hong Kong in an optional claimer Sept. 22 before coming back and winning an optional claimer Oct. 12.

In the optional claimer, Hold Our Destiny rated further behind than usual and powered from midpack to prevail, outrunning Selima entrant Back to Class.

Whether of not she’s good enough to beat this field, which includes New York invaders, is open to debate, but at 12-1 she’s a gamble worth taking.

A race later, 4-1 shot Hamp is the choice to win the Laurel Futurity. Like Hold Our Destiny, he is a winner going the 5 1/2-furlong distance over the Laurel turf course, having rallied from third to win by a half-length over Gas Tank Sept. 22.

He’s not as fast as favored Rip Roarin Ritchie, whose Beyers are superior to his rivals, but if the latter is pressured early, that could leave Rip Roarin Ritchie fatigued and vulnerable late.

Under that scenario, Hamp – perfect in two starts on grass – looks like the horse to do it.