McPeek Takes Aim on Both Blue Grass and Ashland Stakes

McPeek Takes Aim on Both Blue Grass and Ashland Stakes

Daddys Lil Darling winning the Pocahontas Stakes (gr. II) at Churchill Downs – Coady Photography

Keeneland Press Release: Kenny McPeek holds the distinction of being the only trainer to have a horse in both the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass (G2) and $500,000 Central Bank Ashland (G1) on Saturday, opening Saturday of Keeneland’s 2017 Spring Meet. He has two victories in the Toyota Blue Grass (Harlan’s Holiday in 2002 and Java’s War in 2013) and two wins in the Central Bank Ashland (Take Charge Lady in 2002 and 2014 dead-heat winter Rosalind).

His Toyota Blue Grass contender this year is Harold Lerner, AWC Stables, Nehoc Stables and Magdalena Stable’s It’s Your Nickel, who drew the inside post in the field of seven and will be ridden by James Graham. It’s Your Nickel is 20-1 on the morning line.

His Central Bank Ashland hopeful is the race’s 5-2 morning-line favorite, Normandy Farm’s homebred Daddys Lil Darling, who will break from post six with Robby Albarado aboard.

It’s Your Nickel is coming off a 6½-length victory in his most recent race in the John Battaglia Memorial on March 4 over the all-weather surface at Turfway Park. He also has wins on dirt and turf.

“We went into that race real confident, and he ran huge,” McPeek said about the John Battaglia Memorial. “Now we’re ready to find out how good he is. Up to this point, I don’t think we really know.

“We have some bears to run against, but if he can’t run third or better against this group, then he really, legitimately doesn’t belong in the Kentucky Derby (G1),” he added. “He’s had everything set up for him; he’s had plenty of time between races. He’s been here (training at Keeneland with works on March 20 and March 27) the whole time. The question is ‘Is he good enough?’ ”

Daddys Lil Darling, a half-sister to 2015 TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) winner Mongolian Saturday, who is entered in Saturday’s Shakertown (G2) here, won the Pocahantas (G2) at Churchill Downs last year. She next was second in Keeneland’s Darley Alcibiades (G1), fourth in the 14 Hands Winery Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) and second in the Golden Rod (G2) at Churchill. She comes into the Central Bank Ashland off a sixth-place finish in the Florida Oaks (G3) on turf in her lone start of 2017.

“I really needed a race under her belt more than I needed a turf race, but I wanted to run her and get her out there and get her in the game,” McPeek said. “She ran OK. We tinkered with her running style a little bit. I think she’s just got one run in her; I think she’s an off-the-pace type. That’s just the way she is. She’s ready for this.”

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