By Christie DeBernardis
Ken McPeek is no stranger to success having trained the likes of late MGISW and top sire Harlan's Holiday; MGISW and blue hen Take Charge Lady; and 2002 GI Belmont S. victor Sarava.
The 54-year-old added to his career highlight reel just two weeks ago when scoring a hat trick on Churchill Downs' closing night that included victories in the GIII Bashford Manor S. and Debutante S.
With several talented juveniles and sophomores in the barn, the Lexington resident may be primed for one of his best seasons yet.
TEN CITY (c, 2, Run Away and Hide)
Tabbed a “TDN Rising Star” after a seven-length romp on debut at Keeneland Apr. 19, Tommie Lewis' Ten City, a $12,000 FTKOCT buy, followed suit with a decisive score in Churchill's Bashford Manor June 30 (video).
“We really were [expecting that performance]. I think he is one of the best horses I have ever had my hands on. He does everything with ease. We went into it pretty confident and obviously he proved us right. He is a very special horse. I am hesitant to sprint him too much at this point because he is so fast. I think the sooner I stretch him out, the better off he will be.
“He came out fine. I'm going to sit and wait for the races [at Churchill] in the fall, specifically the [GIII] Iroquois [S. Sept. 16] and the [GI Claiborne] Breeders' Futurity [at Keeneland Oct. 7]. We are not going to travel with him at this point.”
SUNNY SKIES (f, 2, Animal Kingdom)
Donning cap and gown by nine lengths when unveiled at Keeneland Apr. 27, Normandy Farm homebred Sunny Skies was equally impressive when capturing Churchill's Debutante S. June 30 over a sloppy track (video).
“She showed a lot of class. She won from the one hole too, which I think is significant and hard to do. We were really pleased.
“We are going to keep her here until the fall races as well. She is going to point for the [GII] Pocahontas [S. Sept. 16]. She is one I think we need to be a little more patient with anyway. We train her at my farm because she gets a little claustrophobic at the track.”
BROCKTON GEORGE (c, 3, Harlan's Holiday)
Fern Circle Stables' Brockton George, second on debut at Churchill Nov. 6, returned to score a convincing victory there just 20 days later and has been on the shelf since.
“Brockton George is going to run in the [GIII] Indiana Derby Saturday. I think he is one of the best 3-year-olds in our barn. I think the race is modestly difficult. I'm not really intimidated by anybody. Irap has obviously won the [GII Toyota] Blue Grass and [GIII] Ohio Derby, but the rest look like horses that I think he is going to be competitive with. We will see how he does coming off the layoff, but this is a really good colt. I think potentially he is a better horse than Senior Investment.”
SENIOR INVESTMENT (c, 3, Discreetly Mine)
Winner of the GIII Stonestreet Lexington S. in April, Senior Investment checked in third in the GI Preakness S. next time out May 20. Fifth in the GI Belmont S. June 10, the Fern Circle Stables colorbearer could do not better than 10th when switched to the turf for last Saturday's GI Belmont Derby.
“Senior Investment came out of the Belmont Derby well. That was an experiment to see how he would take to the turf. It will probably be his last turf race, but we felt like we needed to try it. He is at my farm in Lexington for the summer and he won't start again until late summer or fall.”
DADDYS LIL DARLING (f, 3, Scat Daddy)
Heroine of last term's GII Pocahontas S. and runner-up in the GI Darley Alcibiades S., Daddys Lil Darling has continued to show talent as a sophomore, finishing second in the GI Central Bank Ashland S. Apr. 8 and the GI Kentucky Oaks May 5. Traveling across the pond for the June 2 G1 Investec Oaks, the Normandy Farm homebred was a late scratch after running off and throwing her rider during the post parade. The bay rebounded with a respectable fourth in last Saturday's GI Belmont Oaks.
“We were pleased with her race. She's got a lot of talent on whatever surface you put her on. I think it is unfortunate she didn't get to show how good she is in England, but that was just bad luck. She is going to go back on the dirt and will be pointed towards the [GI] Alabama [S. at Saratoga Aug. 19].”
CLASSY MUSIC (f, 2, Maclean's Music)
Third behind next out stakes winner Buy Sell Hold (Violence) on debut at Keeneland Apr. 20, Fern Circle Stables' Classy Music earned her diploma at Ellis Park July 7.
“Classy Music will be pointed towards the Ellis Park Debutante Aug. 20.”
HARLAN STRONG (ARG) (c, 3, Harlan's Holiday)
Fern Circle's Harlan Strong added to McPeek's banner day at Churchill June 30 when breaking his maiden at fourth asking in the race between the Bashford Manor and Debutante.
“He is going to be pointed towards the Lamplighter [S. July 29] at Monmouth. If he runs well in that, we may bring him back for a race at Saratoga. He is a good colt in his own right and seems to be on the improve as well.”
JOHN TIPPMANN (c, 2, Tiz Wonderful)
Bred by Albert Baldassari, John Tippmann is owned by Baldassari in partnership with Daniel Lion, Francis DeMayo and the colt's namesake John Tippmann. The chestnut makes his career bow in the seventh race at Ellis Park Saturday.
“This is a nice colt, but it is going to be one step of many. We tend not to overdue our young horses for the first race. He's done everything right and seems like he is a naturally talented colt. I expect to him be competitive there.”
IT'S YOUR NICKEL (c, 3, Dialed In)
Victor of the John Battaglia Memorial S. Mar. 4, It's Your Nickel checked in sixth in the GII Toyota Blue Grass S. Apr. 8 and was last seen finishing third in the GIII Illinois Derby Apr. 22.
“It's Your Nickel had a little issue in his back and he is going to be out of training. We are going to give him off until probably Sept. 1. It's nothing he can't overcome. He will be back soon enough.”
PAT ON THE BACK (c, 3, Congrats)
A two-time stakes winner against fellow NY-breds as a juvenile last term, Pat on the Back checked in third in the state-bred Mike Lee S. May 29 and returned to winning ways in the Empire-bred Ontario County S. at Finger Lakes June 26.
“Pat on the Back will run in the New York Derby July 22 [at Finger Lakes] and he will come back at Saratoga for a race there.”
PURELY A DREAM (f, 3, Pure Prize)
Purely a Dream captured the GIII Bourbonette Oaks on synthetic Mar. 25, but failed to fire when switched to turf for the GIII Appalachian S. Apr. 13 and GIII Edgewood S. May 5, finishing ninth in both.
“Purely a Dream had a set back. She had to have a minor surgery. She won't be back until the fall.”
WONDERMENT (f, 4, Cosmonaut)
Heroine of last term's Bourbonette Oaks, Wonderment checked in fourth in the NY-bred Critical Eye S. at Belmont May 29 and romped by five lengths in the state-bred Dancin Renee S. June 17.
“I'm really pleased with her year already. She will run back Aug. 17 in [the Union Avenue S.] at Saratoga.”