”I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” ~Robert Frost
Faced with the uncomfortable possibility of seeing his star filly shut out of the Kentucky Oaks, it looks like trainer Kenny McPeek will opt to forge his own trail to the first Friday in May. Normally the last stop on the Kentucky Derby trail for colts with hopes of late qualification for the Run for the Roses, the Grade 3 Coolmore Lexington Stakes may instead serve as the means for getting Pure Fun into the Kentucky Oaks field. While many might see Saturday’s race against males as asking a little too much of the filly, McPeek is no stranger to finding success with a little outside of the box thinking. It was McPeek who last summer took advantage of a planned race not filling, by deciding to enter an unheralded three-year-old in the million dollar Travers. He figured Golden Ticket was working well, so why not take a shot. The gamble paid off in a big way when the long shot dead-heated for the win. Yesterday also turned out to be a huge day for McPeek, as he saw his top two sophomore males punch their ticket to the Kentucky Derby. First it was Java’s War coming from last to get up in the final strides to win a three-way photo in the Blue Grass. Then a little later in the afternoon, Frac Daddy did just enough to get second place money in the Arkansas Derby. All this came on the same day of an important workout for Pure Fun. Owned by Magdalena Racing, Pure Fun worked five furlongs in company with the Spiral Stakes 4th place finisher, Taken by the Storm. The pair polished off the distance in 1:01.40 leaving McPeek pleased.
“It was a good work. Both of them work well together. It was a good match,” said McPeek. “Leaning toward Illinois with him and the Lexington with her, although there’s a good chance I may enter him here as well.”
An eye catching winner of the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet Stakes at the end of last year, things have not exactly gone as planned for Pure Fun in 2013. On, or near, the top of many a Kentucky Oaks list over the winter, the daughter of Pure Prize got off to a late start and has only made one start this year, which resulted in a disappointing third place finish in the Grade 3 Bourbonette Oaks.
Looking for big improvement after the first start off a layoff, McPeek clearly wants in the Oaks, and as it stands now, Pure Fun remains very much on the bubble for the big race. Taking advantage of the rule that allows points in male races to be used by a filly toward the Kentucky Oaks, despite points earned in fillies races not eligible to be used toward the Derby, McPeek may just have the answer tohis concern that Pure Fun will not otherwise have enough points to get into an overflow field for the Oaks.
As far as her chances at Keeneland on Saturday, she certainly would need to improve off her third in the Bourbonette, but with that expected improvement, she might just be the class of a race that looks to be devoid of any male stars. A good race in the Lexington would then get her into the Kentucky Oaks 13 days later.
The Lexington – Kentucky Oaks double is definitely a road less traveled, but if Pure Fun is as talented as Kenny McPeek thinks … why not take a shot? I think Robert Frost would approve.