BALTIMORE, Md.—Trainer Kenny McPeek doesn’t mind swinging for the fences, and he’s got two Triple Crown race victories to show for it.
In 2002, McPeek ran Pimlico’s Sir Barton winner Sarava back in the Belmont Stakes (G1), for which his $142.50 win mutuel remains a record for the Triple Crown finale. McPeek then won the COVID-delayed 2020 Preakness with the 11-1 shot Swiss Skydiver, who had finished second in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) but beat eventual Horse of the Year Authentic at Old Hilltop.
But this swing is going to cost $150,000, which is required to supplement the Derby Day allowance winner Creative Minister for the 147th Preakness, because he isn’t nominated to the Triple Crown.
“We have felt like this was a real nice horse from the beginning,” McPeek said. “He was behind schedule last year as a 2-year-old. He had what I call some growing issues, and we had to turn him out a couple of times. When we got him ready this spring, I didn’t Triple Crown nominate him because I didn’t think he’d be ready. Since then, he’s just blossomed. His last two starts have been completely professional.”
After finishing second by a neck in his debut March 5 at Gulfstream Park, the son of 2012 Preakness third-place finisher Creative Cause ripped off 1 1/16-mile maiden and allowance victories at Keeneland and Churchill Downs, respectively.
“One of the partners, Greg Back, has been really ambitious to run in stakes races,” McPeek said. “He wanted to run in a stakes out of a maiden win. I insisted that we go in (an allowance) race and then after that, ‘we’ll go wherever you want.’ At this point, we’re going to give him a shot at the Preakness. He ran 1:42 1/5 going a mile and a sixteenth the other day. I’m hopeful that puts him in the mix.”
While Creative Minister is eligible for the $100,000 Sir Barton on the Preakness undercard, restricted to horses that have not won an open stakes, “we swing high and hard,” McPeek said. “Yes, the Sir Barton would be an easier spot. We could wait for the Matt Winn here at Churchill, as well. But he’s on tune right now. The horse is doing super. Epicenter has been running all year. How that unfolds, it’s hard to say, with the Derby winner out. The race is wide open. We’re going to stick him in there and give him a chance.
“Weirder things have happened,” he added of Creative Minister’s chances of winning the Preakness. “It happened last Saturday. You just never know in this game if you have a horse doing well.”
Still, McPeek admits there was some sticker shock at the cost of making Creative Minister eligible for the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown’s.
“Well, they blinked a little bit,” McPeek said. “I own part of the horse as well, so I also have to pay toward the supplement. But we’re OK with that. In hindsight, I probably should have nominated him (for $600 by Jan. 29). But he hadn’t even raced yet, and it didn’t look like he was going to make that window of time. But the race the other day was ultra-impressive, and maybe he’s taking us there. We’re going to see how good he is.”
Picked out by McPeek for $180,000 at Keeneland’s 2020 September Yearling sale, Creative Minister’s ownership features a 45 percent stake apiece by Paul Fireman’s Fern Circle Stables and Back, with the trainer retaining 10 percent.
Maryland Jockey Club Press Release
Photo: Creative Minister (#7 outside) missed winning his debut at Gulfstream by a neck. (Coglianese)