Ken McPeek doesn't buy into the concept of moral victories.
Where others take solace in holding their own against the best of their peers, McPeek views that as a surefire way to ensure you never progress toward those currently situated at the top.
So when some tried to give him an "attaboy" for getting Daddys Lil Darling to outperform her double-digit odds during her runner-up effort in the May 5 Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1), the veteran trainer felt that beat was actually an emotional dagger—especially given the top-level faith he maintains in the daughter of Scat Daddy.
"That's what makes us so competitive at this. I'm not satisfied being second," McPeek said. "But you know, you have to keep marching forward."
That next bold step for Normandy Farm's homebred filly is likely to come overseas. McPeek said May 11 he is looking to send Daddys Lil Darling to the June 2 Investec Oaks (G1) at Epsom Downs.
The late rally Daddys Lil Darling uncorked in the final furlong of the Kentucky Oaks, one that fell 1 1/4 lengths short of winner Abel Tasman, was both validation and a gut punch for McPeek. Though she has lost six straight since winning the Pocahontas Stakes (G2) in September, the bay filly has run second four times against graded company, including the April 8 Central Bank Ashland Stakes (G1) and October's Darley Alcibiades Stakes (G1).
She has also dabbled in turf. In her seasonal debut, Daddys Lil Darling ran sixth in the Florida Oaks (G3T)—a race that featured multiple graded stakes winner La Coronel—but was beaten just 2 1/2 lengths by race winner Fifty Five.
"I'm in discussions with the owner, Nancy Polk, about taking her over for the English Oaks," McPeek said "It's not confirmed yet but ... we've got all our ducks in a row to make that venture and I'm pretty excited about it. This filly has been second in three (grade 1 races) and I think for long-term broodmare value, if we could we could win a grade 1 with her, it would be important. She has a lot of turf in her female family and she seems to really take to it, and I think she'll especially like the mile-and-a-half distance.
"She overcame a track bias (in the Oaks) and she's obviously a very brave filly. This venture to London would be out of the box, but I believe good horses handle different circumstances and I think surface is irrelevant when you've got a really good horse. She seems to be a filly that handles everything."
Daddys Lil Darling broke her maiden by eight lengths at Ellis Park last July in a one-mile test that was originally slated to be contested on the turf. She has won two of nine starts with earnings of $646,365.
"We intend to enjoy a filly that is this special," McPeek said.