2021 Fayette Stakes Cheatsheet
By TwinSpires Editorial Team, Sponsored Content

By J. Keeler Johnson (TwinSpires.com)

1. Sleepy Eyes Todd (3-1) – Last year’s Charles Town Classic (G2) winner recently returned from a four-month break to finish second in his Charles Town Classic title defense, carving out the pace before coming home just 1 1/2 lengths behind next-out Woodward S. (G1) winner Art Collector. This effort produced a career-best 106 Brisnet Speed rating, stamping Sleepy Eyes Todd among the fastest horses in the Fayette field. He’s versatile in terms of running style and showed an affinity for Keeneland when rallying to victory in the Lafayette S. here last fall, stamping Sleepy Eyes Todd as a key win contender on in the Fayette.

2. Manhattan Up (12-1) – Although Manhattan Up’s 4-for-22 career resume isn’t overly eye-catching, the five-year-old gelding did produce a sharp effort in the 1 1/16-mile Los Alamitos Special last month, overcoming early trouble to rally and win by 1 1/2 lengths. Manhattan Up is shipping in from California and making his first start for high-percentage trainer Robertino Diodoro, so there are reasons to believe he can step forward and vie for a top-four finish at solid odds.

3. Militarist (50-1) – An up-and-coming son of Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) winner Liam’s Map, Militarist has won two of his last three starts on turf, including an Ellis Park allowance. But despite his pedigree, the gray colt is 0-for-3 on dirt, and his career-best 92 Brisnet Speed rating suggests he’ll need improvement to factor against tougher competition in the Fayette.

4. Night Ops (6-1) – One of the most consistent horses in the Fayette field is Night Ops, who has hit the board in 14 of his last 15 starts. Runner-up in four straight stakes during the spring and summer, including the Ben Ali S. (G3) at Keeneland, Nights Ops is dropping in class off a fourth-place effort in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1). His Brisnet Speed ratings are competitive, though the fact he’s 0-for-7 in 2021 suggests Night Ops is more likely to garner a minor award than visit the winner’s circle.

5. Independence Hall (5-2) – The slim morning line favorite is winless in 2021, though he’s shown strong form along the way. His best showings include a third-place finish in the Pegasus World Cup (G1) and a runner-up effort in the Lukas Classic (G3), a pair of events won by possible 2021 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) favorite Knicks Go. Independence Hall should find the competition in the Fayette a bit easier, though he’s lost ground from the eighth pole to the finish line in each of his last four starts, so the 1 1/8-mile distance of the Fayette might be pushing his stamina limitations just a bit.

6. King Fury (9-2) – A dominant winner of the Lexington S. (G3) during the Keeneland spring meet, King Fury enters the Fayette in encouraging form. The stretch-running sophomore was compromised by a slow pace when finishing a deceptively good fifth in the Travers S. (G1), after which he crushed the Bourbon Trail S. at Churchill Downs by 13 lengths. Facing older rivals in the Fayette is a new challenge for King Fury, but the son of Curlin keeps getting better and may have more upside for improvement. Victory isn’t out of the question.

7. Code of Honor (3-1) – This two-time Grade 1 winner is easily the most accomplished runner in the Fayette field, and he’s also the fastest in terms of Brisnt Speed ratings. The Shug McGaughey trainee has put up back-to-back 104 Brisnet Speed ratings, sufficient to win the Philip H. Iselin S. (G3) and finish fourth in a deep renewal of the Woodward S. (G1). Hot jockey Tyler Gaffalione (a 26% winner at Keeneland this meet) takes over the mount, arguably stamping Code of Honor as the horse to beat on the class drop.

8. Fort Peck (20-1) – This six-year-old gelding has made impressive progress since being claimed by high-percentage trainer Robertino Diodoro, dominating a $50,000 claimer over 1 1/8 miles at Saratoga before finishing second in the one-mile Kelso H. (G2) at Belmont Park. The latter effort saw Fort Peck fight on to finish second behind possible 2021 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) favorite Life Is Good. Fort Peck will face a much larger field in the Fayette, but another competitive effort isn’t impossible to envision.

9. Major Fed (12-1) – A veteran of the 2020 Kentucky Derby (G1), Major Fed is 2-for-2 in 2021, winning a pair of 1 1/16-mile allowance events at Churchill Downs with sharp late rallies. The son of Ghostzapper hit the board three times against graded stakes company last season, but the 88 Brisnet Speed ratings generated by his allowance wins look a little light compared to those posted by the Fayette favorites.