While many are preparing to open their Christmas presents Tuesday morning, Kenny McPeek is already playing with his new toys. Even though the Kentucky Derby is still over four months away, McPeek is thinking more of mint juleps than egg nog.
At Gulfstream Park Sunday morning, McPeek sent out his Iroquois Stakes winner Harlan's Holiday
for his first work back, then waited for the return of Repent
, who has been vacationing at Another Episode Farm in Ocala.
Harlan's Holiday, who also captured the Miller Genuine Draft Cradle Stakes at River Downs and was second to Siphonic in the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity, surprised McPeek with his half-mile work in :48 2/5 at Gulfstream Park.
"I thought he'd go in about :50, because it was his first work since the Iroqouis, but the girl couldn't hold him," McPeek said. "Just eyeballing him, I thought he had gone his first eighth in :14, and he went in :12 1/5. He went beautifully; it was really a pleasant surprise, because he looked like he was thrilled being out there and working."
Repent has been under the care of Dominick Brennan, who broke him as a yearling and prepared him at 2. He was scheduled to arrive at McPeek's barn late Sunday afternoon. McPeek said the son of Louis Quatorze would have his first breeze in about three to four weeks.
As for mapping out a schedule for both colts, McPeek said he was seriously considering the Louisiana Derby route for Repent, but didn't rule out keeping him in Florida. "We'll see how Harlan's Holiday runs in the Holy Bull Stakes and Fountain of Youth before we make any firm decisions," he said.
In other 2-year-old news, there were a couple of interesting winners last week. At Aqueduct on Dec. 20, Tony Dutrow, who has had his share of talented 2-year-olds the past couple of years, saddled Saratoga Blues
to his second impressive victory in as many starts. The son of the Forty Niner stallion Twining had destroyed a maiden field at Laurel on Nov. 24 by almost 12 lengths. Sent off at 4-5 in the mile and 70-yard allowance race at Aqueduct, Saratoga Blues again went right to the front and cruised home a 2 1/2-length winner, despite racing very greenly and erratically in the stretch. What made this victory even more impressive was the fact that he put away Robins Beauty, who was coming off an excellent fourth-place finish in the Remsen Stakes.
The offers have already started coming in on this colt, who is out of a Manila mare. He has a ton of stamina, through Tom Rolfe on top and Le Fabuleux and Herbager on the bottom. His dosage profile is a well-balanced 9-2-12-2-5, giving him a great blend of speed, classic, and stamina influences.
"I realize he didn't beat anything in Maryland in his first start," Dutrow said, "but that colt who challenged him in this race was no bum. And with our horse having so little seasoning, to take on that guy like that, we were very pleased. I took him to New York to get experience and he got it. The Count Fleet comes up up too quickly, so I may run him in a small stakes here in Maryland, then point for the Whirlaway Stakes. He's a big, grand-looking colt and he's very sound and so kind and easy to ride and train. I was able to get him for only $30,000 at Timonium this May, but I was willing to spend three times that amount for him."
At Fair Grounds on Dec. 21, Frank Brothers, who trains the promising Robe
, sent out a live first-time starter in Clergy
, who broke his maiden going six furlongs by 2 lengths in a sharp 1:10 3/5. Like Robe, Clergy is a son of Pulpit. His maternal granddam, the unraced Orseno, is a half-sister to Unbridled, by In Reality. If you like inbreeding, you'll love this colt, who is inbred to Mr. Prospector 3x3, In Reality 3x5, and Nashua 5x5. His dam, Minery, is a daughter of Forty Niner. Clergy forced the early pace, dropped back on the inside, then rallied through the stretch to win going away.