10/30/2015 3:57PM

Race Day returns with record-setting performance in Fayette Stakes

Nikki Sherman
Race Day sets a track record for 1 1/8 miles when winning the Fayette Stakes on Friday at Keeneland.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Race Day is not a horse for all seasons, but on Friday he reverted back to his fine form of the spring with a three-quarter-length victory in the Grade 2, $200,000 Fayette Stakes at Keeneland.

In the process, Race Day set a track record of 1:47.90 for 1 1/8 miles, eclipsing the mark of 1:48.79 set by stablemate Protonico in the Alysheba Stakes here in April.

Hoppertunity, the 2-1 favorite in the Fayette, was hung four wide on the backstretch and made a mild bid to finish second, four lengths over the pacesetting Encryption in third.

It was 1 1/2 lengths back to Commissioner, who was followed, in order, by Protonico, Geothermal, V. E. Day, Code West, and Ulanbator. Departing and Eagle scratched.

The win was the sixth from 11 starts for Race Day, a 4-year-old son of Tapit owned by Matthew Schera and trained by Todd Pletcher. Earlier this year, Race Day recorded consecutive victories in the Grade 3 Razorback Handicap at Oaklawn and the Grade 2 Oaklawn Park Handicap.

He went off form this summer running sixth in the Grade 3 Salvator Mile at Monmouth Park and ninth in the Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga.

“Don’t know,” Pletcher said when asked what happened to Race Day during the summer. “He went through a little phase there where he wasn’t training quite as well and we waited. Then we went to Monmouth, fully expected a good effort, and we didn’t get one. That threw us for a loop.”

Pletcher then experimented by backing Race Day up to seven furlongs in the Forego, but the horse had the rail and he was no match for Private Zone.

On Friday, under John Velazquez, Race Day was sitting inside, in third, about two lengths behind Encryption, who set fractions of 23.55 seconds, 47.15, and 1:11.41 for six furlongs.

Approaching the quarter pole, Velazquez got Race Day off the rail, and tipped him three wide. Race Day collared those two inside the three-sixteenths pole, opened up a large advantage, and easily held Hoppertunity at bay.

Race Day returned $10.60 as the third betting choice.

Pletcher said Race Day would point for the Grade 1 Clark at Churchill Downs on Nov. 27 before being retired to stand stud at Spendthrift Farm in 2016.

Victor Espinoza, the jockey of Hoppertunity, said he wished the race was farther “and we would have gotten there. But he ran a good race, that’s all we can ask.”