10/27/2011 3:53PM

Keeneland: Fayette makes for big finish


LEXINGTON, Ky. – The curtain comes down on the Keeneland fall meet Saturday, but not without one final reminder of how good the stakes action was throughout the 17-day stand. An exceptionally deep renewal of the Grade 2 Fayette Stakes anchors a 10-race closing-day program, a fitting way to end three weeks of what makes a horseplayer scurry down to the corner store to get a Daily Racing Form.

The lengthy list of viable contenders in the $150,000 Fayette might well start with Mission Impazible, who will break from the far outside among the 12 3-year-olds and upward set to clash in the 1 1/8-mile Polytrack race.

“We’re not delighted with the post,” said trainer Todd Pletcher, who will give a leg up to jockey Javier Castellano. “But hopefully we can get away with it. The horse is doing very well.”

Mission Impazible, a 4-year-old Unbridled’s Song colt owned by the Twin Creeks Racing of Randy Gullatt, won his only prior start over synthetic, that being his April 2009 career debut going 4 1/2 furlongs at Keeneland. Mission Impazible since has gone on to become an accomplished route horse and a multiple graded winner of nearly $950,000.

Pletcher said he hopes to use the Fayette as a springboard to the Nov. 25 Clark Handicap on the Churchill Downs dirt, where Mission Impazible ran a huge second to longshot Pool Play in June in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap. “That’s the objective, anyway,” said Pletcher.

The Fayette-to-Clark combo became notable two years ago when Blame swept both races as a 3-year-old. Blame defeated Zenyatta in the Breeders’ Cup Classic a year later.

Some of the other Fayette contenders might have different future races on their agenda, if for no other reason than they hail from different circuits or their strengths are synthetic and/or turf. That eclectic group is led by locally based Wise Dan, who captured the 2010 Phoenix at Keeneland at 3, then the Grade 2 Firecracker on the Churchill turf and the $250,000 Presque Isle Downs Mile over Tapeta at 4. Wise Dan, with leading jockey Julien Leparoux to ride, was assigned post 8 for the Fayette.

Other notables include Eighttofasttocatch (post 4), an earner of big Beyer Speed Figures in recent wins in Maryland; Ioya Bigtime (post 10), an impressive winner over the Keeneland Poly in an allowance route on opening weekend; and Workin for Hops (post 11), a steady and versatile performer trained by Mike Stidham.

Also, the Fayette represents a rematch among the first two finishers in the WinStar Kentucky Cup at Turfway Park: Future Prospect, owned and trained by 78-year-old D.H. Skaggs, finished nearly a length in front of General Quarters, owned and trained by 77-year-old Tom McCarthy.

General Quarters, the leading earner in the field with more than $1.2 million, returns to the scene of his richest career triumph, a 14-1 upset of the $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes in 2009. “It looks like we might be about 14-1 in this spot, too,” said Jerry Hills, the longtime right-hand man in McCarthy’s small barn operation. “A repeat would really be something.”

Rounding out the cast are Decisive Moment, Modern Cowboy, Jimmy Simms, Anak Nakal, and Guys Reward.

The Fayette, named for the county in which Keeneland is located, is carded as the ninth of 10 races on a Saturday card that also includes three allowances (races 6, 7, 8). First post is 1:15 p.m. Eastern, with the Fayette going at 5:23. Live showings are available on TVG and at drf.com.

Many of the other stakes run here at a meet that began Oct. 7 were similar to the Fayette in that they were extremely attractive wagering events, replete with high-class runners from all over the North American map. Races such as the Shadwell, Spinster, Breeders’ Futurity, Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup, and Raven Run all enjoyed one of their best renewals in years.

As always, there will be no carryovers after Saturday in any of the jackpot wagers because of the meet closing. The pick five and other exotics will be paid to the next-best sequence in case of no perfect tickets.

The Saturday finale represents the only chance at this meet that fans can pull a “Bluegrass Doubleheader,” with the University of Kentucky hosting Mississippi State at 7 p.m. in college football at nearby Commonwealth Stadium. The weather forecast for Saturday calls for sun and a high temperature of about 55.