Barn Tour: McPeek talks about 9 going this week, 9 later

Barn Tour: McPeek talks about 9 going this week, 9 later
Photo: Jennie Rees / Kentucky HBPA

Classic Causeway raced two weeks ago. Rattle N Roll, Runaway Wife and Silverleaf went to the post last week.

All four are entered to start again Saturday. Trainer Kenny McPeek clearly is not afraid of bringing his horses back on short rest to race again. Especially when they send him a message.

It is not about having an alert gallop between races or even an energetic walk around the shed row. For McPeek, the message comes long before that.

“It’s the feed tub,” he said. “I’ve got a good man that works for me at Churchill named Eric Saul, whose job every day is to check the feed tubs and deliver me information if I’m not there to tell me who ate and who didn’t eat.”

PODCAST: Hear Kenny McPeek discuss his horses.

Evidently, those four horses have an appetite to be racing again Saturday. The trainer sure does.

“I’ve always believed in running my horses as opposed to breezing, breezing, breezing,” McPeek said.

Classic Causeway comes back from his third-place finish in the Ohio Derby (G3) to join rested stablemate Tiz the Bomb in their switch to the turf for the Belmont Derby Invitational (G1) at Belmont Park.

Rattle N Roll turns right around from his victory in the American Derby at Churchill Downs to be the 5-2 morning-line favorite for the Indiana Derby (G3) at Horseshoe Indianapolis.

That is where maiden winners Runaway Wife and Silverleaf will bounce right back from closing weekend at Churchill Downs to race Saturday in the Indiana Oaks (G3).

McPeek also has black-type-stakes winner Butterbean entered in the Iowa Oaks (G3) on Saturday night at Prairie Meadows and allowance victor Semble Juste starting in the Mari Hulman George Memorial in Indiana.

Since he cannot be in three places at once, where will McPeek be during this swirl of weekend activity?

“I’ve got to work the yearling sales in Lexington (Ky.) this weekend,” McPeek said in a conversation for Horse Racing Nation’s Ron Flatter Racing Pod. “That’s been my M.O. for decades. It’s the yearling sales.”

With his lieutenants ready to represent him on the road, McPeek offered a preview of races for 18 horses both this week and beyond in this HRN Barn Tour.

This week

Classic Causeway. Coming off 11th-place finishes in the Florida Derby (G1) and Kentucky Derby, this 3-year-old colt was moved out of the barn of Brian Lynch by owners Patrick O’Keefe and Clarke Cooper. In his first race for McPeek, the two-time graded-stakes winner was overtaken late but still hit the board in the Ohio Derby. Now Classic Causeway will try the turf – not just at the top level but at 1 1/4 miles in the Belmont Derby Invitational.

“You always want to win a Grade 1 with a colt,” McPeek said. “But this horse needs a race where the pace of the race isn’t so fast, where he can breathe a little bit. He tends to want to overdo it in the first quarter- and half-mile. If he could go 48 (seconds) or 48 and change and save some of that energy for the finish, I think he’s going to be really hard to beat.”

Classic Causeway, who was 12-1 on the morning line for the Belmont Derby, was sired by Giant’s Causeway, a six-time Group 1 winner on European turf. His dam Private World foaled Rockie Causeway, who finished first last year in a one-mile maiden race on the turf at Santa Anita.

“It’s an experiment, which is kind of normal for me,” McPeek said. “I like to try things with horses. I’ve never pigeon-holed one and said they have to do this or they have to do that. ... He’s got a foot on him like a pancake, and I think he’ll like the turf.”

Tiz the Bomb. At 6-1 on the morning line for the Belmont Derby, this Hit It a Bomb colt makes his first start since he closed from 16th to ninth in the Kentucky Derby. Owned by McPeek and his wife Sherri, he has won on dirt, synthetic and turf tracks. His grass credentials include a win last fall in the Bourbon (G2) at Keeneland and a runner-up finish to Modern Games in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar. “This horse really should have gone to the English Derby (G1) or the Irish Derby (G1),” McPeek said. “There were some politics involved, and we weren’t able to go. He came out of the (Kentucky Derby) fine, and I think he's set up for this in a really good way.” Because of his familiarity with Belmont Park, Dylan Davis got the mount. He will replace Brian Hernandez Jr., who will ride Rattle N Roll.

Rattle N Roll. Cross-entered for both the Indiana and Iowa derbies Saturday, the 3-year-old Connect colt will race closer to his Kentucky home. “We’re going to Indiana because of the easier ship time,” McPeek said. “They made him 5-2 at Indiana as opposed to 3-1 at Iowa, and there’s about 10 hours difference in travel.” Rattle N Roll originally was not intended to race last weekend. That was before lead owner Mike Mackin noticed the American Derby had been taken off the troubled turf course at Churchill Downs. The extra $3,500 supplement fee turned into a $120,245 victory. “I said it was a good idea,” McPeek said. “He basically got a paid workout.” Rather than partner Tiz the Bomb in New York, Hernandez will continue to ride Rattle N Roll in “another little, out-of-the-box move,” according to McPeek, who expressed modest goals for the winner of last year’s Breeders’ Futurity (G1). “I don’t see him being a Travers (G1) horse. The Jim Dandy (G2) I don’t think is suitable for him either. He’s not a Haskell (G1) type, because I don’t think (Monmouth Park) would suit him. Some of the horses going to those races have previously beaten him this spring. We need to pick our spots.”

Runaway Wife and Silverleaf. After breaking her maiden in a five-length win in May, Runaway Wife finished a close second last Friday in an allowance race at Churchill Downs. A day earlier, Silverleaf won by nine lengths in a maiden race on the same track. They are set to cover the same 1 1/16-mile distance Saturday stepping up to the Indiana Oaks. “These stakes fillies have been diluted between the Iowa Oaks and the Indiana Oaks,” McPeek said. “They ran the Tepin last week (at Churchill Downs) as well, and they had the Delaware Oaks (G3).” Runaway Wife, who was 4-1 on the morning line Saturday, is by Curlin. “Of all these horses she’ll probably get a little bit of a break after this,” McPeek said. “We’ll pack them up and probably wait until September until we run them again.” Silverleaf, a Speightster filly, was made a 10-1 long shot for the Indiana Oaks.

Butterbean. A maiden winner at 1 1/16 miles, this Klimt filly was given 5-1 odds on the morning line for the Iowa Oaks. Most recently she won the June 11 running of the Panthers Stakes, a two-turn mile at Prairie Meadows. “We wanted to get black type,” McPeek said. “We got it in the last race. (Jockey) Glenn Corbett did a really good job rating her last time out. The pace of that race melted down up front. She came flying late to get it done.” Butterbean was named by the McPeeks’ 6-year-old daughter Annie for the title character in the children’s TV show “Butterbean’s Café.”

Semble Juste. With a French name meaning “just right,” the 4-year-old filly by Shalaa won for the third time in 17 starts when she scored last Thursday in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race at Churchill. McPeek is part-owner of Semble Juste, who will be making her second stakes start as a 4-1 third choice in the 1 1/16-mile Hulman George. She finished last in the Mistletoe Stakes on Dec. 4 at Oaklawn.

Oliviaofthedesert. With a 2-for-2 record at the track in Altoona, Iowa, this 4-year-old Bernardini filly was made the 5-2 morning-line favorite to maintain that perfect record Friday night, when she starts from the outside post against six rivals in the Iowa Distaff. A $320,000 yearling purchase who is owned by Susan Moulton, Oliviaofthedesert is a closer who won last out June 10 at Prairie Meadows in the $50,000 Jack Bishop Stakes.

Corningstone. “She acts like she’s got a lot of talent.” That was what McPeek said about this 2-year-old Kantharos filly who tries to break her maiden Friday night in the 5 1/2-furlong Prairie Gold Lassie, a $100,000 stakes at Prairie Meadows. At 6-1 on the morning line, Corningstone will be looking to improve on a second-place debut June 17 going 5 1/2 furlongs at Churchill Downs.

After this weekend

Smile Happy. Winless since his triumph last November in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2), the Runhappy colt has not raced since he finished eighth in the Kentucky Derby. “He’s in Saratoga right now,” McPeek said. “We’re on a slow motion with him. We weren’t real thrilled with the way he started back. He got a little body-sore on us. I have no schedule in mind on him right now. We’re trying to get him so that he's 100 percent. He’ll be at Saratoga all summer. I’m sure you’ll see him get on the work tab here in the next month or two.”

Creative Minister. Back to training last weekend for the first time since he came in fifth in the Belmont Stakes, the Creative Cause colt who previously finished third in the Preakness is expected to race next in the Curlin Stakes, a 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds July 29 at Saratoga. “He had a maintenance half-mile at Saratoga,” McPeek said. “He’s scheduled to breeze back this weekend. The Curlin I think is a really good spot, a restricted stakes for 3-year-olds that have never won a sweepstakes. That’s an ideal next dance for him.”

Dash Attack. The two-time stakes winner has not raced since he finished first May 14 in the Long Branch Stakes in the slop at Monmouth Park. “He’s on the shelf right now,” McPeek said. “We weren’t happy with a couple things with him, his ankles in particular.” McPeek and his partners since had the 3-year-old by Munnings gelded. “He’ll be on the bench probably until late fall.”

King Fury. He was a three-time stakes winner before he turned 4 this year. The Curlin colt has raced only once since last fall, finishing eighth in the Kentucky Cup Classic on April 2 at Turfway Park. That was King Fury’s first try on a synthetic surface. This summer he returns to the dirt at Saratoga. “He’s slated for the Alydar on Aug. 4,” McPeek said. That is a 1 1/8-mile dirt race for older horses who have not won a stakes race in open company this year.

Crazy Beautiful. This 4-year-old Liam’s Map filly was second June 25 in the Lady Jacqueline at Thistledown. A three-time graded-stakes winner last year, Crazy Beautiful could land in the Shuvee (G2) for older fillies and mares July 24 at Saratoga, “If that’s what we choose,” McPeek said. “It depends on how tough the Shuvee comes up.”

Gunning. She has only two races to her name, but she ran away to a five-length, maiden-breaking victory last weekend as an 8-5 favorite at Churchill Downs. Now this Gun Runner filly could end up in a new stakes on opening day, July 14, at Saratoga. “I may run (her) in the Wilton,” McPeek said, referring to the race for 3-year-old fillies coming out of the newly rebuilt mile chute at Saratoga.

Envoûtante. A two-time winner of graded stakes, she has raced only once since last Thanksgiving, finishing last of four horses in the Beholder Mile (G1) at Santa Anita. Now the 5-year-old Uncle Mo mare is being pointed to a summer comeback. “Envoûtante is back in the game,” McPeek said. “Probably in the Summer Colony in mid-August at Saratoga.” The 1 1/8-mile race for older fillies and mares is restricted to non-winners of graded stakes in 2022.

Camp Hope. A turf specialist since last summer, this 4-year-old Summer Front colt finished seventh last out in the Louisville (G3) on May 21 at Churchill Downs. A black-type stakes winner on the grass last fall at Keeneland, Camp Hope has not had a timed workout since before his last start. But “he’s progressing back, too,” McPeek said without setting a target for a next race. “He’s headed to Saratoga as well.”

Cocktail Moments. Winless in five starts since her November debut, the 3-year-old Uncle Mo filly was fourth in her last start, a June 3 allowance race at Churchill. “She’s back in training,” McPeek said without specifying her next start. “She was second in the Ashland (G1, April 8) and off the board in the Kentucky Oaks. But a good feeling in her own right.”

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