Trainer Ken McPeek contentedly sat in his office Sunday morning, the
blanket of roses awarded to the winner of the historic Grade 1 Travers proudly
draped over the front of his desk.
Make that half the blanket.
Just as Kiaran McLaughlin did at his barn, McPeek proudly celebrated
winning half the Travers after his 33-1 long shot Golden Ticket hit the wire at the exact same time as Alpha for
the first dead heat in the race for 3-year-olds since 1874.
After a night of celebration, McPeek, who also finished fourth in the
race with Atigun, put the
achievement into perspective.
“I know it’s a cliché, but it’s the classic win-win
situation,” said McPeek, who grew up in Lexington and played in midget football
leagues in the mid-1970s with McLaughlin. “Kiaran’s path and my
path are so different. He went to work with [Hall of Fame trainer Wayne] Lukas
and had that experience and met so many people. I did it the hard way, at River
Downs and Latonia, but I learned my lessons. It’s great to reach the
mountain after having been down so low. I was living in a $50-a-week bungalow I
split with somebody in 1985.”
Golden Ticket, owned by Magic City Thoroughbred Partners, wasn’t
even being pointed to the Travers. Off a good second in an allowance in May at
Churchill Downs, McPeek had plans to run the Speightstown colt in a Saratoga allowance, which
didn’t draw enough entries. Then, the same thing happened with the
Bernardini overnight stakes.
“We had been watching this horse train, and Danny Ramsey, who has
a really good talent galloping for me, was telling me how good he was
doing,” McPeek said. “He went 59 and change over the Oklahoma track and that
was faster than I’ve had any horse work there. He went 59 there and
that’s like 57 anywhere else.”
Golden Ticket was supplemented into the field as a separate entry from
Atigun and shot through a hole along the rail turning for home when tiring
leader Speightscity drifted out. He was a length in front, but Alpha caught up
Atigun, forced to check when Street Life abruptly began to slow down
because of a minor injury, found running room after going five wide on the far
turn and finished a strong fourth.
“Atigun, he got stopped,” McPeek said. “He could have
won that race. He had to go outside, but he ran a great race in his own right.
Atigun cleaned up his feed tub and Golden Ticket didn’t. He’s a
McPeek said Atigun might next take on his elders in the Grade 1 TVG
Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational, a 1 ¼-mile race September 29 at Belmont Park. Golden Ticket could show up next
in the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby on September 22 at Parx Racing.