McPeek to try jumps

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"ken_mcpeek.jpg"Yes, it’s that Ken McPeek on your steeplechase overnight. The top flat trainer unveils his firstjumper, Old Man Buck, in the maiden hurdle at the Charlottesville, Foxfield Sunday, Sept. 27.

Lawrence Carroll’s Old Man Buck provided McPeek with his 1,000th career victory when he won at Churchill Downs earlier this year.

The 47-year-old native of Fort Chaffee, Ark., won his first race as a trainer in 1985 and has built a spectacular career since then. McPeek has campaigned such stalwarts as Harlan’s Holiday, Repent, Take Charge Lady, Sarava, Prince Arch and Einstein. He picked out two-time champion Curlin and steeplechase stakes winner Be Certain.

It’s time he tries the jumps.

“Jonathan Sheppard and Michael Dickinson are my heroes,” McPeek joked when asked why he wanted to try the jumps. “Seriously, I’ve got a lot of admiration for those guys and have gotten some advice from both of them. I’ve sent some horses to Jack Fisher who have done well (Quem Se Atreve, for one). I like to see horses have alternate careers and I thought it would be fun to try.”

McPeek owns Magdalena Farm, a training facility in Lexington. He bought some hurdles, employed amateur jockey Jacob Roberts to help with the schooling and has his scope on horses who might like to jump. So far, he’s schooled two horses. One didn’t seem to enjoy it so McPeek scrapped the plan, the other is Old Man Buck, winner of the Cradle and Grand Canyon Stakes in 2007.

“He seems to like it, puts a lot of energy into it, so everything is positive right now,” McPeek said. “I’m fortunate the facility can give me this opportunity. I’m optimistic. I buy a certain type of horse that tend to go a distance of ground so they should be very suitable to the jumps. It should be a natural progression.”

Old Man Buck is number 1 in a field of 11 entered in the 2 1/8-mile race. Worth $15,000, the race is the fifth on the day with a first post of 1:30 p.m. The field is loaded with first-time starters, with favoritism probably going to Global Genius, who hinted at some promise this spring.