Kenny McPeek stole the show in the two highly-anticipated 3-year-old allowances races Jan. 8 at Gulfstream Park. The trainer won both 1 1/8-mile events with second-time starters and now has a pair of good-looking colts to watch for on the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) trail.
In race 6, Silver Wing Stable’s Free Country stalked the pace along the rail, struck the front at the top of the lane, and outdueled favored Atomic Rain to post a neck victory under Kent Desormeaux. It was the second win in as many starts for the son of Big Country—Smyrna (by Wild Again), who broke his maiden by 1 1/4 lengths in the slop Nov. 15 at Churchill Downs.
The final time on a fast track was 1:51.19.
"He showed a lot of bravery today," McPeek said of Free Country. "He's a big, lanky horse and has done everything right so far. He still has room for a lot of improvement too.
Free Country was bought for only $10,500 at the 2006 Keeneland November breeding stock sale. He was bred in Kentucky by George Brunacini and Bona Terra Farm.
Stately Character finished 2 1/2 lengths back of Atomic Rain for third.
Two races later, McPeek sent out Lansdon Robbins III and Sam Delaney’s Danger to Society, the favorite in a field of eight sophomores. The chestnut colt stalked the pace set by Idol Maker, took over rounding the final turn, and drew away in the stretch to win by 3 1/2 lengths under Robby Albarado. The final time was 1:51.16.
"This is a horse we liked from beginning but he had some baby issues and we had to take it slow with him," McPeek said. "I think it wound up being to his benefit."
A son of Harlan's Holiday—Elrose (by Deputy Minister), Danger to Society broke his maiden at first asking by 1 1/2 lengths Nov. 19 at Churchill going a mile.
Danger to Society, bred in Kentucky by Starlight Stables, was bought for $300,000 at the 2007 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July select yearling auction.
A.P. Cardinal finished second, a half-length in front of fast-closing They’re Late.
"We didn't really train either horse too hard up to these races, so to have these results is really nice," McPeek added. "You never really know what you have when their that young, but we liked them both from the start.
"It was a great day. We have several other what I call 'fringe horses' in the barn that have some potential too. I'll probably nominate about a dozen horses to the Triple Crown."
McPeek has started three horses in the Kentucky Derby, including Tejano Run, who finished second to Thunder Gulch in 1995.