FAYETTE STAKES | PURSE: $200,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS AND UP | GRADE 2 | 1 1/8-MILES
Pick of the Litter found a seam between favorites Departing and Long River inside the final sixteenth and was just up to defeat the former by a neck in Saturday's Grade 2, $200,000 Fayette, the closing day feature of the Keeneland fall meet.
Under Corey Lanerie, Pick of the Litter enjoyed a ground-saving trip only a few lengths behind the dueling pair of Long River and Call Me George, who took turns holding a narrow lead through splits of :24 1/5 and :48 1/5. Departing also entered the fray around the far turn and the three were separated by a half-length when Call Me George passed six furlongs in 1:12 1/5.
In the stretch, Departing opened up a one-length lead over the wide-traveling Long River, but Pick of the Litter was in close pursuit hugging the rail. When Lanerie spotted the gap between the top pair, he shifted the eventual winner off the inside and in between rivals to nab the win in a time of 1:49 2/5 for nine furlongs on a fast track.
The 7-1 fourth choice in a field of eight, Pick of the Litter paid $16.60 to win. He is owned by Crossed Sabres Farm and is trained by Dale Romans.
"I had a great trip," Lanerie said. "My horse broke really good. My plan was to try to get behind Departing; I thought he was the horse to beat and to try not to let him get out of my sights. I wanted to stay kinda close to him and see what I had turning for home, see if I had enough to go by him or not."
Departing, the 2-1 favorite, finished second by a length over Long River, who was a neck ahead of Code West. Mister Marti Gras, Call Me George, Coltimus Prime, and Stephanoatsee completed the order of finish.
This was the third career stakes appearance for Pick of the Litter, a four-year-old colt by Kitten's Joy. He finished fourth earlier this year in both the July 27 Monmouth Cup and the September 27 Homecoming Classic at Churchill Downs. In between those two outings, he was half-length allowance winner at Saratoga over Breeders' Cup Classic-bound Cigar Street, who turned the tables on Pick of the Litter in the Homecoming Classic. Pick of the Litter's record now stands at 18-5-4-2, $392,662.
"This horse has always shown in the past that he had the potential to be a really good horse," Lanerie said. "For some reason, it wouldn't just all click at one time. Dale and I kept talking, 'We know he's a good horse.' We didn't know why he's just not getting there, but we knew he could do it. Today he put it all together."
A $150,000 Keeneland September purchase, Pick of the Litter was produced by the Fusaichi Pegasus mare Eagle Sound, a half-sister to Grade 2 winner Wild Syn, who famously upset the 1995 Blue Grass at Keeneland. Also hailing from this extended family are the Grade 1-winning juveniles Competitive Edge, All Fired Up, and Awesome Humor; Grade 1 scorer Awesome Humor, and Group 2 winner Spring Party.
Pick of the Litter was bred in Kentucky by Gabriel Duignan, Crosshaven Bloodstock, and Vision Thoroughbreds.