The shutters came down on the Keeneland Racecourse fall meet on Saturday when the star of the show was the romping West Will Power, an easy all-the-way winner of the G2 Fayette Stakes. The supporting feature was won in contrasting style by Balnikhov, who came fast and late to steal the G3 Bryan Station in the final strides. Keeneland opens its doors again on Friday for the glittering Breeders’ Cup World Championship weekend.
Fayette Stakes, G2, $350,000, 1m 1f, 3yo+
West is much the best
Power by name, power by nature. West Will Power simply blew them away in the Fayette at Keeneland on Saturday, driving gate-to-wire to make his breakthrough at stakes level and lead home a Brad Cox exacta.
The 6-5 second-choice broke on top and was allowed his own way on the lead under Joel Rosario, setting tepid fractions until turning up the heat around the turn. None of his rivals could challenge him, and West Will Power drew off easily through the stretch to win by six and three-quarter lengths, stopping the clock in 1:50 and three-fifths.
His barnmate Fulsome rallied past Last Samurai to take the runner-up spot by three-quarters of a length, but the favorite First Captain was an almighty flop, trailing in a distant last of the five runners.
Fayette Stakes Race Video
West Will Power was unraced as a juvenile, is a real late bloomer, and can boast a hugely consistent record, only finishing out of the first two twice in 12 starts. He may now upgrade to the G1 Clark at Churchill Downs on November 25.
“He’s a nice horse who’s finding his best stride later in life,” said Cox, who finished the Keeneland fall meet as leading trainer with 11 wins and has several good chances at the Breeders’ Cup next weekend, including Cyberknife (BC Dirt Mile), Chop Chop (BC Juvenile Fillies) and Caravel (BC Turf Sprint).
Bryan Station Stakes, G3, $300,000, 1m turf, 3yo
Balnikhov stars in late show
Phil D’Amato had a day to remember with three stakes wins at home at Santa Anita Park and one on his travels, as Balnikhov staged an irresistible late rally to claim the Bryan Station by a neck.
He looked an also-ran at the top of the lane with ten horses in front of him, but the 6-1 fourth-choice found daylight under a praiseworthy ride from Tyler Gaffalione and eventually clicked into overdrive, running down the favorite Wit in the last few strides. The outsider Axthelm kept on for third, a half-length further back; the stopwatch showed 1:35 and one-half.
Bryan Station Stakes Race Video
“That was an insane trip, the way Tyler [Gaffalione] did that he must be a magician,” said Billy Koch, of majority owner Little Red Feather Racing.
Balnikhov began his career in France, winning three times in minor company before emigrating earlier this year. He has adapted well to life in California, winning a stakes at Del Mar and running a slightly unlucky fourth in the G2 Del Mar Derby on his two previous starts.
“Man, he’s got some turn of foot,” said Gaffalione the magician. “That was a lot of fun. All I had to do was find a little space, and then a spot opened up and he went through it.”
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