10/27/2005 12:00AM

As usual, Howard has threat for Fayette


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Keeneland closes Saturday, and some people hate that. A semi-annual rite of seasonal change comes to an end, and, for some, life seems emptier with another Keeneland meet behind them.

For Neil Howard, however, the end of Keeneland is a good thing. Not that Howard has fared poorly at this latest 17-day stand; to the contrary. In fact, Howard won back-to-back races here Wednesday with Patriot Act and America Alive, two of the better horses in his prodigious stable.

No, Howard looks forward to the end of Keeneland meets because that's when they run the Ben Ali (in the spring) and the Fayette (in the fall). Howard has won the last three (and four of the last seven) runnings of the Grade 3 Ben Ali, and the Grade 3 Fayette three times, including last year with Midway Road.

This year, Howard is represented in the $150,000 Fayette by Alumni Hall, who won the Ben Ali in the spring and most recently finished second in the Meadowlands Cup.

"His race at The Meadowlands made us think he would be well suited for a Grade 3-type of race like the Fayette," said Howard, who trains Alumni Hall for owner-breeder Will Farish. "You always think about the Breeders' Cup around this time of year, but realistically, this obviously is the better spot."

, with Calvin Borel substituting for regular rider Robby Albarado, will face a solid cast of challengers in the 1 1/8-mile Fayette. Among his strongest opponents in the field of nine is Lord of the Game, who was excluded from the BC Classic; M B Sea, winner of the 2003 Fayette; and Shaniko, winner of the Kentucky Cup Classic last month at Turfway Park.

, a winner of 8 of 12 starts, took a rather circuitous route to get here from Chicago. Trainer Tom Tomillo already had shipped the 4-year-old gelding to Belmont to run in the Classic, but shortly after Breeders' Cup entries were drawn Wednesday, Lord of the Game was back on a van headed to Kentucky.

The 47th Fayette will be run as the fifth and final race on an abbreviated live card. First post is noon Eastern. The fourth race will be run between the BC Juvenile Fillies and BC Juvenile at 1:38 p.m., while the fifth race, the Fayette, will be run at 2:15, between the BC Juvenile and the BC Filly and Mare Turf.