No one was hotter last week than trainer Kenny McPeek, who won two stakes at Oaklawn over the weekend, one a prep for the GI Kentucky Derby, the other a prep for the GI Kentucky Oaks. McPeek scored with the filly Band of Gold (Preservationist), who, at 24-1, won the Martha Washington S. Two races later, it was the colt Mystik Dan (Goldencents), who was an impressive eight-length winner of the GIII Southwest S. at odds of 11-1. That meant there was plenty to talk about when McPeek joined this week's TDN Writers' Room podcast presented by Keeneland. McPeek was the Green Group Guest of the Week.
Though Mystik Dan had been a bit inconsistent during his brief career, McPeek said he always knew the colt had ability.
“This horse is really fast,” McPeek said. “He has been from the beginning. Initially, I ran him twice in sprint races and afterward I kind of regretted it a little bit because we had to retool him a little bit. He's so quick, but you had to kind of re-teach him and he needed to learn how to go longer. What he did this past weekend was pretty special in the sense that we've been teaching him to sit off horses. Let him just go easy and then learn to utilize that speed. The last three furlongs, it looked like he was shot out of a cannon.”
McPeek has won the GI Preakness S. and the GI Belmont S., but a Derby win has eluded him. He came close with his first ever runner Tejano Run (Tejabo), who was second in 1995. But, overall, he is 0-for-9 in America's greatest race. How badly does he want to add a Derby win to his resume?
“For me, being from Kentucky, it is a big deal,” McPeek said. “I think any horse trainer wants to win a race like that. But it's got to come together on its own. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't. I'm not going to put all my eggs in the one basket and say I haven't won the Derby so I haven't had a full career.”
Band of Gold was a badly beaten fifth in the Untapable S., but McPeek wasn't about to give up on her after she won her debut, a maiden race at Churchill Downs.
“Any filly that wins first time out like she did at Churchill Downs is obviously talented,” he said. “I think that she got a little confused in her second start at the Fair Grounds. We ran her in the Untapable, but she never really figured out what she was supposed to do out there. She was the one that we somewhat had to regroup with.”
In the stallion spotlight segments, the podcast featured Coolmore's Tiz the Law (Constitution), who stands for a fee of $20,000. The focus was also on Audible (Into Mischief), who stands at WinStar Farm for a fee of $15,000.
Elsewhere on the podcast, which is also sponsored by the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association, 1/ST Racing, West Point Thoroughbreds, and XBTV.com, the team of Randy Moss, Bill Finley and Zoe Cadman reviewed the ultra-impressive win by Nysos (Nyquist) in the GIII Robert B. Lewis. Because he is trained by Bob Baffert, who remains under a ban at Churchill Downs, he cannot run in the Derby. The panel agreed that the absence of Nysos and the other Baffert runners could turn into the type of controversy that could overshadow the race itself. The discussion also included the GIII Holy Bull S., in which the heavily favored champion Fierceness (City of Light) didn't have the best of trips on his way to a third-place finish. All agreed that it was a subpar race from a horse who shows signs that he can't handle adversity. The podcast closed with a look at the story of trainer Jeffrey Englehart, who is facing a two-year suspension for clenbuterol, which he insists was administered to the horse before it came into his barn.