Trainer Kenny McPeek took both of Churchill Downs' closing-night stakes for 2-year-olds with the colt Ten City and the filly Sunny Skies and now will shoot for a sweep repeat in the $75,000 Ellis Park Juvenile Stakes and Ellis Park Debutante Stakes Aug. 20.
Ten City, winner of the June 30 Bashford Manor Stakes (G3), is the anticipated favorite in the seven-furlong Juvenile, which attracted a capacity field of 12 at Ellis Park. Sunny Skies, winner of the Debutante Stakes, could also be favored in the Ellis Park Debutante, for which there are 13 entries.
McPeek originally planned to train his duo of bombastic babies up to Churchill's grade 3 Iroquois Stakes and Pocahontas Stakes (G2) Sept. 16, both 1 1/16-mile races that are part of the Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" Challenge Series. The two youngsters forced their trainer to move up their next outings, however, as each impressed during their morning routines.
"They've been working together and been doing really well," McPeek said from Saratoga Race Course. "My assistant there at Keeneland said, 'I don't know if I can sit on these horses for another month.' We collectively decided it would just be best to run them. We still have a month coming back to the Churchill races and it looks like both horses have a pretty good chance.
"Anything can happen in a horse race. We all know that. I mean, last year I was the favorite in the Ellis Park Juvenile with (third place) Honor Thy Father, and Lookin At Lee beat me. Lookin At Lee goes on and places in some of the Triple Crown races."
Still, McPeek says Ten City "might be one of the best I've ever had my hands on" and uses the word "special" to describe Normandy Farm's Sunny Skies, a daughter of champion Animal Kingdom who won her debut at Keeneland by nine lengths before she took the Churchill stakes.
"We're fortunate," McPeek said. "We get a lot of young horses every spring, and some years we have a better group than others. This seems like an exceptional group. Someone questioned me on Twitter why wouldn't you run Ten City in the (grade 1) Hopeful? I just felt like keeping him at home. He's in his routine. The same guy gets on him. Keeping those two, especially, around Kentucky just seemed to be the best for them right now."
Part of that, he admits, is because the ultimate objective for Ten City is the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) and for Sunny Skies, the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) back at Churchill.