10/27/2006 11:00PM

Eccentric proves Polytrack expertise


LEXINGTON, Ky. - It was no accident that Eccentric wound up at windy, sun-splashed Keeneland to race in the Fayette Stakes on Saturday afternoon. That synthetic mush with the multicolored strands - Polytrack - was calling his name. A six-time Polytrack winner during the English phase of his career, Eccentric had been breezing on Woodbine's Polytrack since shipping into the barn of trainer Roger Attfield late this spring. And he liked Keeneland's version of the stuff, too. Jockey Eddie Castro, baby face and braces, gave Eccentric a perfect ride, laying in wait near the back of a full field, slipping inside a wall of horses turning for home, and letting Eccentric do his thing. Eccentric overcame a slow pace that benefited another Polytrack-lover, Ball Four, and won the Grade 3, $150,000 by three-quarters of a length.

English-bred, Gary Tanaka-owned Eccentric is not bad on turf: He won a Group 3 last summer at Windsor. He's not bad on dirt either, having finished third in a Group 3 in Nad Al Sheba in Dubai last February. But he specializes in Polytrack. Two winters ago, Eccentric won five races, including the $192,000 Winter Derby, over the all-weather track at Lingfield. A turf allowance race on Oct. 8 at Woodbine, his first start since trainer Roger Attfield took over his training, merely was a prep for the Fayette, assistant trainer Rachel Haldon readily conceded.

"He's such a good Polytrack horse," Haldon said. "We were just waiting for the right spot."

Earlier Saturday, Attfield earned his 300th career stakes win with Pellegrino in Woodbine's Chief Bearhart. The Fayette was No. 301.

The Fayette, contested at 1 1/8 miles, had 12 horses, but none wanted the lead, such has become the perceived anti-speed bias on Keeneland's new racing surface. Willie Martinez didn't care. Ball Four led all the way a month ago winning the Kentucky Cup Classic over Turfway's version of the Poly, and Martinez planned on doing the same thing. Slowing the pace to 24.75 seconds for the first quarter and 49.21 for the half, he almost pulled it off. Ball Four had enough left to fend off the wide run of second-choice Good Reward, but when Eccentric snuck through on his inside, Ball Four couldn't contain him, though he tried.

Good Reward, 1 1/2 lengths behind Ball Four, was easily third over tepid favorite A.P. Arrow. Eccentric ($18.20) was timed in 1:49.16.