LEXINGTON, Ky. – Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Twin Creeks Racing Stables, WinStar Farm and Robert and Kathleen Verratti’s Independence Hall shrugged off the challenge of Code of Honor for an emphatic 7¼-length score in the $200,000 Hagyard Fayette (G2), the featured event on closing day of the 17-day Keeneland Fall Meet.
Today’s 10-race card also included the $150,000 Bryan Station, won by Camp Hope, and the $150,000 Bowman Mill, won by Nakatomi.
In the Hagyard Fayette, jockey Javier Castellano hustled Independence Hall to the early lead and moved clear to a comfortable 1-length margin in the first quarter-mile clocking of :24.24. Following a half mile in :48.38 and three-quarters of a mile in 1:12.45, Code of Honor and jockey Tyler Gaffalione began to move alongside Independence Hall. At the quarter pole, Independence Hall shook clear from the challenge to an impressive win.
“Everything changed today from the way I handicapped the race (before Sleepy Eyes Todd was scratched). I didn’t see too much speed in the race. I made the adjustment myself (thinking) if you can put him in a good position, a forward position, he can carry himself all the way around the track. I think the key today was breaking good out of the gate,” remarked Castellano.
“I didn’t see much speed, so (I wanted to) dictate the pace and go wire to wire. I had to encourage him a little bit (nearing the wire), but the more you ask him, the more he gives you. He’s a really nice horse. The slop helped a lot, too; he loved it, he splashed along and he carried himself.
Independence Hall, a 4-year-old colt by Constitution, covered 1 1/8 miles over the track labeled sloppy in 1:50.30. He is trained by Michael McCarthy.
Justin Curran, assistant to winning trainer Michael McCarthy, commented: “With the scratch of Sleepy Eyes Todd this morning, he was probably the next logical speed in the race. I thought (Independence Hall) would be there or would be close if he got a nice clean trip, which he did.”
Three-year-old King Fury, the 9-5 favorite, finished third, and was followed by Night Ops, Militarist, Manhattan Up, Major Fed and Fort Peck.
Independence Hall returned $9, $4.40 and $3.20. Code of Honor paid $3.80 and $2.60 to place, while King Fury returned $2.60.
“He broke extremely well and put himself in a great position. I was traveling very confidently around the turn, and when I gave him a squeeze to get the horse in front (Independence Hall), I just never got to him, and he got away from me. With the way the main track has been playing, the inside has been really good, and the speed has been a little favoring. That might have helped the other horse a little bit, but my horse put in a big effort,” explained Tyler Gaffalione, rider of runner-up and beaten favorite Code of Honor.
Bred in Kentucky by Woodford Thoroughbreds, Independence Hall is out of the Cape Town mare Kalahari Cat. The $100,000 purchase at the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale earned $120,000 for his victory in the Hagyard Fayette Stakes to boost his career earnings to $874,000. His record improved to 13-5-2-2.
Brian Hernandez Jr., rider of third-place finisher King Fury: “We followed the winner and the second-place horse and turning for home my horse surged. The one in front of us got to go pretty easy. They don’t come back to you when they go in :24 and change and :48 and change. (King Fury is) a 3-year-old, first time against older horses. You have to be proud of him. He ran a respectable third. (Last year’s Stonestreet Lexington-G3, which he won) was the same kind of race track as today. The front-runners just got away from us today.”
Kenny McPeek, trainer of King Fury: “He runs better when there’s a (faster) pace to run at. It was a good solid run for his first start against older horses. He’s always done everything right. We will probably come back in the Clark Handicap (G1, in November at Churchill Downs).
Click here for a replay of the race and the post-race interview with winning connections.
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Keeneland Press Release
Photo: Independence Hall (Keeneland Photo)