Gary Tanaka's overlooked Eccentric slipped through along the inside to overtake Ball Four in the final furlong to win the $150,000 Fayette (gr. III) on Polytrack by three quarters of a length on closing day of the 17-day Keeneland fall meet Saturday.
Making his second North American start for trainer Roger Attfield, the British-bred 5-year-old Most Welcome gelding had experienced much success on the all-weather track at Linfield in his native country during 2004 and 2005. He won seven times in 16 starts there, including a group III victory.
In his only previous start for the veteran Canadian conditioner Attfield, Eccentric was a strong third, 1 1/4 lengths behind Sky Conqueror, in a classified allowance on the Woodbine lawn Oct. 8.
"We got him midway through the summer," said Rachel Halden, assistant to Attfield. "He was actually a very good Polytrack horse in England."
Ridden by Eddie Castro from the rail in the field of 12, 8-1 shot Eccentric made progress on the far turn while saving ground and closed with a steady charge under strong handling to seize the advantage from Ball Four, who led from the early stages. Ball Four held second over Good Reward, who was 10th early under Mike Smith and closed impressively on the outside before losing steam. Favored A.P. Arrow came on fourth after throwing a shoe at the gate and delaying the start for several minutes while he was re-shoed.
The winning time for the 1 1/8-mile event was 1:49.
Ball Four took the lead from Southern Africa as the field moved toward the clubhouse turn and showed the way through fractions of :24 3/5, :49 1/5, and 1:11 3/5. Winner of the Kentucky Cup Classic (gr. IIT) in his last start, Ball Four hung on stubbornly as it appeared Good Reward would overtake him mid-stretch, but he could not defeat Eccentric. Ball Four finished 1 1/2 lengths in front of Good Reward.
"Around the turn, I thought I had it won," said Smith. "He kind of hung on me a little bit -- being on the outside and all the wind blowing -- he kind of lost interest for a second and that's all it took."
Eccentric picked up his first win in five starts this year, which he began in the United Arab Emirates in the barn of Seemar Satish. Overall, he has won 10 of 32 tries with earnings of $526,915. He won the 2005 Winter Hill Stakes (Eng-III) on the grass at Windsor in August 2005.
The winner paid $18.20, $10.80, and $7.20, topping a $157.40 exacta with Ball Four ($6.40, $4.80), ridden by Willie Martinez. Good Reward, third behind Ball Four in the Kentucky Cup Classic last out, was $3.60 to show.
It was 1 1/2 lengths back to the 5-2 choice A.P. Arrow, who was followed under the wire by Host, Scipion, Kid Grindstone, Student Council, Wayzata Bay, Southern Africa, Alumni Hall, and Go Now. Andromeda's Hero scratched.
"I think I made a little mistake pulling the trigger too late," said jockey Rene Douglas, of A.P. Arrow. "I thought the pace was slow, and I had my chance to go. But I didn't really want to be 10-wide. So I tried to save ground on the turn."