Ken McPeek did his best Babe Ruth, or better yet Joe Namath, behind the desk of his office when asked what he thought of the new restricted auction races in the condition book at this year’s Saratoga Race Course meeting. (Originally published in Aug. 23 issue of The Saratoga Special)
“I love the auction races,” McPeek said. “They’re right up my alley. I’m going to win my third one today. I haven’t always been given a huge budget but I know what to buy.”
Flute Maker, a $35,000 purchase at last year’s 2018 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July yearling sale, delivered on McPeek’s predication with a victory in Wednesday’s sixth race by 11 1/2 lengths. Flute Maker gave McPeek his fourth win at the meet from 18 starters through Wednesday, three shy of last year’s total bolstered by Eskimo Kisses victory in the Grade 1 Alabama.
McPeek’s string is bedded down again in the Oklahoma Annex, the Saratoga string complimenting a larger contingent back home in Kentucky at Keeneland and Churchill Downs. The Saratoga group is led by Grade 1 winner Restless Rider, on the comeback trail, along with several 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds and older horses.
“It’s called the big board,” McPeek said, referencing the dry erase board with the names of the nearly 80 horses in his care. “I’ve got stacks of young horses right now and a bunch that are not quite ready yet.”
McPeek, fresh from a short work trip to France where he bought four yearling fillies, sat down to talk about some of the contingent with The Special’s Tom Law.
Restless Rider: Fern Circle Stable’s and Three Chimney’s Farm’s Grade 1-winning filly returned to serious training this summer with the Saratoga string after 90 days off following a 12th in the Kentucky Oaks. Second in last year’s Grade 1 Spinaway and winner of the Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades, 3-year-old daughter of Distorted Humor is 3-for-8 with $892,660 in earnings. “We’re going to point her toward Keeneland and probably the Raven Run. She’s just getting back in a work routine now. I’d say she’s 60 days away from a run. The Raven Run is a good spot for her, seven-eighths. We were hoping to make the Breeders’ Cup with her but she’s fine. There are definitely some other good choices. She’s a great filly. After the Oaks we let her down, gave her time to fill out a little bit. She was a little unlucky Oaks day, broke awkward, had a rough trip and not much went right. She was second in the Ashland off a long layoff, which I thought was a great race.”
Fighting Seabee: Walking L Thoroughbreds purchased 2-year-old Summer Front colt for $105,000 at last year’s Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July sale. He broke his maiden by 2 lengths going 1 mile on the grass July 6. “He’s going to run in the With Anticipation (Aug. 28). Top 2-year-old colt. He was really impressive in his first race and we’re excited to try it. We think it’s going to be a good fall with him.”
Morning Gold: A $205,000 purchase at last year’s Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July yearling sale, daughter of Morning Line broke her maiden in second start here going 1 1/16 miles on the turf by 5 1/4 lengths. Owned by Albert LaRose and Greg Back, she’s headed to the main track and stakes next. “She’s won here impressively. She’s going to go to the Pocahontas at Churchill and probably follow that up with the Alcibiades at Keeneland. Those are two good spots for her.”
Cairo Cat: Walking L’s 3-year-old Cairo Prince broke his maiden here last year and won the Grade 3 Iroquois at Churchill in his next start before going to the sidelines. He finished third in comeback race behind Spinoff and Lone Sailor going 9 furlongs Aug. 9. “I thought his first race off the layoff was fair enough. He’s probably going to run in the Smarty Jones on Labor Day or the Dueling Grounds Derby (Sept. 8). One of those two. He should handle turf, we’ll see, but we’re probably leaning toward Parx right now.”
Liberty’s Pursuit: Fern Creek’s 3-year-old Curlin colt returned from freshening to finish third in 9-furlong maiden here Aug. 11. “He’s a big strong colt that’s taking a little time to develop, but he’s on for a good fall.”
Made Sense: McPeek extended quite a bit outside his usual budget, going to $500,000, to buy 2-year-old Street Sense colt at Fasig-Tipton Midlantic May sale. He’s breezed six times on the Oklahoma, including 5-furlongs in 1:03.29 last Saturday. “He’s going to run at the end of the month.”
January Won: Harold Lerner’s 2-year-old by New Year’s Day colt, a $45,000 buy at last year’s Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July sale, won July 18 maiden special weight restricted to auction purchases of $45,000 or less in his debut. “He’s going to be pointed toward something in September, maybe the Gainesway (Farm Juvenile) at Kentucky Downs. That’s at a mile. Or he could go in the Iroquois at Churchill.”
Beyond Gone: Another auction maiden winner at the meet, 2-year-old Can The Man colt won going 6 furlongs Aug. 14 in his second start. McPeek bought colt out of the Gone West mare And Beyond for $40,000 at last year’s Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October sale. “He’s going to go to Kentucky Downs race but he’ll be nominated to the Hopeful. I’m not sure if he’s good enough for the Hopeful right now but we’ll see.”
Crossing The Moon: Lerner bought 2-year-old Cross Traffic ridgling for $90,000 at last year’s Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July sale. He finished XX in Thursday’s sixth race, the rare 9-furlong juvenile maiden special weight. “He’s another nice colt. He was begging for more ground so we get it at a mile and an eighth. That’s the first distance 2-year-old dirt race of the season. I’m glad they got it to go, it usually doesn’t. He’s exciting. He’s run a couple times, he needs more ground, dirt, he’d run fair races up until now.”
Impeccable Style: A private purchase after she RNA’d for $140,000 last fall as a yearling, 2-year-old Uncle Mo filly shows five breezes on the Oklahoma that include a half in bullet :48.64 two back. “We’re real excited about her. Top filly. Really good horse.”
Snaffle: Two-year-old Distorted Humor filly RNA’d twice after being sold to Machmer Hall as a yearling for $105,000 at 2018 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky February mixed sale. She’s going to run at the end of the month. She’s owned by Machmer Hall’s Carrie Brogden and her sister Kristy Willwerth. She’s going to run here.”
Cardiac Kid: Fern Circle’s 2-year-old American Pharoah colt out of the stakes-placed Tale Of The Cat mare New Wave cost $230,000 in April. He’s finished sixth and fifth in maiden races here July 13 and Aug. 10. “He well on the grass here then I tried him back sprinting and probably made a mistake doing that. He’ll probably go long again and I’ve got him pointed to the end of the month. Expect him to improve off those first couple races.”
Princesa Carolina: Three Chimneys Farm’s homebred 3-year-old Tapit filly finished second in the Grade 3 Pucker Up at Arlington park Aug. 10. She placed in two other graded stakes this season and is 2-for-10 with three seconds and $195,299 in earnings. “She’s down in Kentucky. Just second on Arlington Million Day. She’s going to the Dueling Grounds Oaks (Sept. 8).
Flight Time: Five-year-old Brazilian-bred son of Put It Back, unbeaten in his native country, finished eighth in American debut in the Kentucky Downs Preview Tourist Mile at Ellis Park Aug. 4. He’s owned by Peter Callahan, Gainesway Stable and Harold Lerner. “He’s headed to a race Sept. 5 at Kentucky Downs. Ran once, needed the race and should improve off that effort.”
Harvey Wallbanger: Winner of the Grade 2 Fasig-Tipton Holy Bull in his 3-year-old debut, he returned from a short break to finish fourth in the Ellis Park Derby Aug. 11. Owned by Lerner, AWC Stables, Scott Akman and Nehoc Stables, 3-year-old son of Congrats cost $50,000 as a yearling at the 2017 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July sale. “We’re debating where to go. He won the Holy Bull but has been off the board since. He was fourth in the Ellis Park Derby last time out (Aug. 11). He’s invited to go to Korea for a race over there (Korea Cup Sept. 8). The race is $1 million and it will be shippers mostly. I was the first American to ever run a horse in Korea, The Truth Or Else (in the 2017 Korea Sprint). It’s a pretty easy ship. The horses handle it fine. We’re going to discuss that and the other option is running at Parx also in the Smarty Jones. Looks like I’m already going there with Cairo Cat. Or he could go to Kentucky Downs and try to go on the grass.”
Lil Miss Hot Mess: A $67,000 buy at last year’s Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October sale, 2-year-old daughter of Race Day broke her maiden in her third start going 7 furlongs on the dirt at Ellis Park July 28. “She’s headed to either the Arlington-Washington Lassie or the Kentucky Downs (Juvenile Fillies) at a mile.”