Barn Notes 1/5/24
Compiled by Robert Yates
Two wins Monday at Oaklawn pushed trainer Kenny McPeek’s career North American total to 1,986, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization.
McPeek won the first race with favored Dear Lady ($5.20) and the third race with favored Marco Sunset ($5.40). McPeek also won two races Sunday – the second card in Oaklawn history exclusively for 2-year-olds – including the $200,000 Year’s End Stakes with Ice Cold ($8.80). McPeek equaled a single-day career high with four victories, including the Year’s End and $150,000 Renaissance Stakes, on Oaklawn’s first all-2-year-old card in 2022.
McPeek has seven horses entered this weekend at Oaklawn, including Grade 3 winner Butterbean in the $150,000 Pippin Stakes for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles and Grade 2-placed Sun Thunder, who is scheduled to make his first start since early May in a one-mile $140,000 first-level allowance for older horses. Both races are Saturday.
Butterbean, a late-running daughter of Klimt, exits a half-length victory in Oaklawn’s one-mile $150,000 Mistletoe Stakes Dec. 9.
“The only thing is she’s tricky with the pace in the race, seeing how she runs like that,” McPeek said. “But she’s deserving of another chance. The timing’s good. We’ll see if she can pull off another one.”
Sun Thunder was among the four winners for McPeek on Oaklawn’s first all-2-year-old card, breaking his maiden by 6 ½ lengths at a mile in his two-turn debut. Sun Thunder made his next four starts in major Kentucky Derby prep races, highlighted by a runner-up finish in the $400,000 G2-Risen Star Stakes last February at the Fair Grounds. Risen Star winner Angel of Empire returned to win the $1.25 million G1-Arkansas Derby and finished third as the favorite in the Kentucky Derby.
Unraced since finishing 11th in the Kentucky Derby, Sun Thunder has seven published workouts at Oaklawn since Nov. 18 in advance of his 4-year-old debut.
“He’s coming together pretty good,” McPeek said. “He had a little glute issue, a little glute muscle issue, and we just needed to give him a little break. He’s been rock solid.”
Butterbean and Sun Thunder are both 5-2 on the morning line for their respective races.
McPeek saddled his first winner in 1985 and had a career year in 2023, when his horses earned $10,773,078 in purses to rank 11th in North America. He has a much greater presence at Oaklawn than past years with approximately 40 horses on the grounds and already has seven winners at the meet and 82 for his Oaklawn career.
Highland Falls, a 4-year-old son of multiple Oaklawn stakes winners Curlin and Round Pond, is entered in Saturday’s eighth race at Oaklawn, an 8 ½-furlong $142,000 conditioned allowance for older horses. Trained by Brad Cox, Highland Falls is two for three overall. … Truculent is entered in Sunday’s ninth race at Oaklawn for trainer Bentley Combs, a 1 1/16-mile starter allowance that is an audition for the closing-day 1 ¾-mile Trail’s End marathon. Combs and Ten Strike Racing have teamed to win the Trail’s End the past three years. Ten Strike co-owns Truculent and solely owns Tiger Moon, who is also entered in Sunday’s ninth race. Trained by Lindsay Schultz, Tiger Moon finished second in the 2023 Trail’s End. … High Class received a preliminary Beyer Speed Figure of 80 for her front-running neck victory in the $150,000 Poinsettia Stakes for female sprinters, 3 and up, Dec. 30 at Oaklawn.