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BARN NOTES (5.28.09) - McPeek Celebrates 1,000th Win/Spinters Lead Way for Sizzling Calhoun/Mint Julep Nominations Out
FROM FINAL DESTROYER TO OLD MAN BUCK, McPEEK HAS ENJOYED FUN RIDE – Trainer Ken McPeek was all smiles Tuesday morning as he accepted congratulations on getting his 1,000th victory during the Memorial Day holiday card at Churchill Downs.
“That’s a nice milestone; I’ve had a lot of fun,” said McPeek, who hit the mark in the eighth race with a win by Lawrence E. Carroll’s Old Man Buck. “I’ve been training 24 years now.”
A 46-year-old native of Fort Chaffee, Ark., McPeek saddled his first winner on Oct. 27, 1985 at River Downs. The horse was Final Destroyer.
McPeek was asked of the 1,000, which five stood out the most.
“Sarava’s Belmont (in 2002),” McPeek said without hesitation of the No. 1 victory on the list.
“Then Take Charge Lady’s second Spinster,” McPeek said. “She never got beat at Keeneland (five wins, including four graded stakes) and she is the all-time leading money earner there ($1,306,286). She is probably my favorite horse that I have had.”
Rounding out McPeek’s top five in order were Tejano Run’s triumph in the 1997 Widener in which he received a 123 Beyer Speed Figure, Harlan’s Holiday winning the 2002 Florida Derby and Birdbirdistheword’s victory in the 2006 Delta Jackpot for longtime client Raymond Cottrell.
Of the 1,000 victories, 235 have come at Churchill Downs, 14 in stakes.
“I haven’t won a Grade I at Churchill Downs, but I have had some significant seconds,” McPeek said, alluding to runner-up finishes in the Kentucky Derby by Tejano Run in 1995 and Take Charge Lady in the Kentucky Oaks in 2002.
SPRINTERS LEAD THE WAY FOR RED-HOT CALHOUN BARN – The victory by Dubai Majesty in Monday’s $100,000-added Winning Colors (Grade III) continued a meet-long roll for trainer Bret Calhoun’s barn.
The victory was Calhoun’s 10th from only 19 starters at the meet. Nine of the victories have come in 14 sprint races and two of the victories came in stakes.
“I hope the average is like that at the end of the meet,” said Calhoun’s assistant, Dennis “Peaches” Geier.
Geier reported that Dubai Majesty came out of her hard-fought victory in good order, but was not sure what was next for the 4-year-old filly.
“We talked about it after the race,” Geier said. “There is nothing here the rest of the meet, but we do have plans for the turf sprinters.”
Ah, that would be Chamberlain Bridge, winner of the May 1 Aegon Turf Sprint (Grade III) here, and Mr. Nightlinger, winner of Pimlico’s Jim McKay Turf Sprint.
“Chamberlain Bridge won Wednesday night at Indiana Downs in a $60,000 stake and then he is going to Arlington on July 11 for the $200,000 race Mr. Nightlinger won last year,” Geier said, referring to the Arlington Sprint.
“Mr. Nightlinger’s going to Woodbine for a race June 21 (the $200,000, Grade III Highlander at six furlongs) and then to Belmont on July 18 (for the $150,000, Grade III Jaipur at six furlongs).”
PURE CLAN, ACOMA, TIZAQUEENA HEADLINE EARLY TIMES MINT JULEP NOMINATIONS – A trio of graded stakes winners over the Matt Winn Turf Course lead a list of 25 nominations for the 33rd running of the $100,000-added Early Times Mint Julep Handicap (Grade III) scheduled for June 6.
Won in 2008 by champion Dreaming of Anna, the Early Times Mint Julep is run at 1 1/16th miles and is for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up.
Expected to make her 2009 debut in the race is Pure Clan, trained by Bob Holthus and owned by IEAH Stable, Lewis Lakin and Pegasus Holding Group Stables. Pure Clan has been idles since running a disappointing 10th to champion Forever Together in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (Grade I) at Santa Anita last October. The daughter of Pure Prize won the Pocahontas (Grade III) and Golden Rod (Grade II) on dirt here as a 2-year-old in 2007 and last year took the Grade III Regret on turf before heading West to post her biggest triumph, a victory in the American Oaks Invitational (GI) for 3-year-old fillies at Hollywood Park.
Helen Alexander and Helen Groves’ Acoma won the Grade II Mrs. Revere here last fall to run her grass record to 2-for-2 and her Churchill Downs record to 3-for-3. Trained by David Carroll, Acoma worked a half-mile Tuesday in :49.40, her third work since a third-place finish in the Grade I Apple Blossom on April 4 at Oaklawn Park.
Darley Stable’s Tizaqueena ran her turf record to 3-for-3 with a gutty victory in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (Grade II) on the Kentucky Derby undercard on May 2. She has won five of six career starts for trainer Michael Stidham, but her Derby Day triumph was her first graded stakes victory.
Weights for the Early Times Mint Julep will be announced Saturday and entries drawn on Wednesday, June 3.
BARN TALK – After working a half-mile each Monday morning, Kentucky Derby (Grade I) winner Mine That Bird and Kentucky Oaks (Grade I) and Preakness (Grade I winner Rachel Alexandra returned to the track Wednesday morning. Rachel Alexandra was out first around 6:30, going once around with Dominic Terry up. Mine That Bird came out an hour later and went twice around with Charlie Figueroa up.
On Thursday morning, both horses came out at the same time, approaching the six-furlong gap from opposite directions around 7:30.
“Want to race,” asked a smiling Scott Blasi, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen, to Chip Woolley as Mine That Bird approached Rachel Alexandra and Blasi’s pony.
Mine That Bird galloped twice around while Rachel Alexandra visited the starting gate and then went once around. Both horses are scheduled to work Monday.
Zayat Stables’ Thorn Song, winner of Monday’s Shoemaker Mile (Grade I) at Hollywood Park, returned to Dale Romans’ barn at Churchill Downs on Wednesday. Romans said Thorn Song would be pointed to the Grade II Firecracker Handicap to be run July 4. Thorn Song upset favored Einstein in that race a year ago.
Adele Dilschneider’s Terrain, seventh in the Preakness behind Rachel Alexandra, is being pointed to the Iowa Derby to be run June 26 at Prairie Meadows by trainer Al Stall Jr. The Iowa Derby is worth $250,000 and run at 1 1/16th miles.
WORK TAB – West Point Thoroughbreds’ Macho Again posted the best five-furlong drill of 15 on Thursday, going 1:00.40 over a “good” track for trainer Dallas Stewart. Winner of the New Orleans Handicap (Grade II) this year, Macho Again is considered as a likely participant in the Grade I Stephen Foster Handicap to be run June 13. Also going five-eighths over a track that was “muddy” at the time was Domino Stud of Lexington’s Miss Isella, who covered the distance in 1:01. Winner of the Grade II Louisville Distaff on May 1, Miss Isella is being pointed to the June 13 Fleur De Lis.