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Breeders Cup 2015

War Dancer Goes for Hot McPeek Barn

War Dancer 615 X 400 WC
Photo: Chris 'Dark Horse' Sorenson

A victory in Friday’s closing-day Dixiana Elkhorn (G2) with War Dancer will give trainer Ken McPeek his fourth stakes win of the 2014 Spring Meet and continue his foray into new territory of sorts. 

“I’d never won the Ben Ali (G3) or Commonwealth (G3) until this meet,” said McPeek, who has 25 career stakes wins at Keeneland. “I’d like to knock down an Elkhorn.”

War Dancer, a 4-year-old War Front colt who races for Magdalena Racing and Diamond M. Stable, won the 2013 Virginia Derby (G2). He opened his 2014 campaign at Gulfstream Park with a sixth in an allowance race on turf and seventh in the Skip Away (G3) on dirt on March 29 in his most recent race.

“He’s had some rough trips in his last few races, and I tried him on the dirt one last time, which didn’t go all that well, but he’s a nice horse, doing good,” McPeek said. “A mile and a half (of the Dixiana Elkhorn) won’t be an issue. He’ll love it.”

McPeek’s seven wins this meet place him second on the list of the season’s leading trainers entering Wednesday’s races. On April 5, he sent out Rosalind for a dead-heat victory in the Central Bank Ashland (G1); the filly is now training for the $1 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) on May 2 at Churchill Downs.

McPeek won the Commonwealth a week later  with Occasional View and the Ben Ali a week after that with Frac Daddy. Occasional View is headed to Woodbine for his next start, McPeek said, but no decision has been made on Frac Daddy’s next race.


Trainer Roger Attfield will bid for his fifth win in Keeneland’s traditional closing-day feature when he sends out Stella Perdomo’s Forte Dei Marmi (GB) in the $250,000 Dixiana Elkhorn (G2) at 1½ miles on the turf on Friday. The Selkirk gelding, now 8, earned the 2013 Sovereign Award as Canada’s champion turf male. He began last season at Keeneland, but was pulled up and vanned off in the Elkhorn.

“Scared the life out of me. Nothing happened,” Attfield said about the experience. “It was upsetting but a relief, too, when we realized he was OK.”

Attfield, who won the Elkhorn in 2006 with Pellegrino (BRZ), 2009 with Spice Route (GB) and 2010-2011 with Musketier (GER), last year sent out Forte Dei Marmi to win Woodbine’s Singspiel (G3), Sky Classic (G2) and Northern Dancer (G1) in consecutive starts. He initially planned to race the gelding once at Gulfstream before shipping to Keeneland, but did not want to run Forte Dei Marmi on the turf course there.

“He doesn’t mind a firm turf if there’s some cut in it,” Attfield said.

On April 5 at Keeneland, Forte De Marmi finished fifth in a 1 1/8-mile turf allowance event.

“I jarred him up a little bit here when I ran him opening weekend on that firm turf,” Attfield said. “There wasn’t any bounce to it. I wasn’t sure if I was going to run him (in the Dixiana Elkhorn), but he seemed to get over the ground well yesterday (when he worked five furlongs in 1:01.80) on the turf course). If he’s OK tomorrow when I train him, then I’ll run him.”

Forte De Marmi, named for a popular seaside community in Northern Italy, has 10 wins in 34 starts and earnings of $1,037,447. Attfield called him “an interesting little horse to train,” estimating him to be about 15.3 hands.

“He’s his own man,” Attfield said. “Sometimes if he doesn’t want to train at all, I don’t train him. Other times, he does. So I work with him that way, and it seems to be working.”





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