Kenny McPeek won two of the past three runnings of the Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Oaks with Daddys Lil Darling and Princesa Carolina. He now hopes to snare a third on Sept. 10 in the $500,000 stakes with either Envoutante or Jeweled Princess.
Envoutante was third in Keeneland’s Grade 1 Spinster and fourth in Saratoga’s 1 1/4-mile Alabama (G1) won by stablemate Swiss Skydiver. She has raced once before on turf, setting the pace before weakening to fourth in Gulfstream Park’s Honey Ryder Stakes.
“Coming out of the Alabama, this would be a little bit of a drop-down for her,” McPeek said. “Jeweled Princess is coming off a nice allowance win at Ellis Park. She’s a filly I think will handle the distance, too. I’ll probably run both.”
Kenny McPeek is never hesitant to switch his horses between turf and dirt. Dreamquist, winner of an Ellis Park mile maiden race on dirt, could make her grass debut in the $500,000 The Mint Juvenile Fillies on Labor Day. He’s also considering Oliviaofthedesert, another impressive mile maiden winner over the Ellis main track, in Kentucky Downs’ mile turf stakes for 2-year-old fillies.
“I’d like to have some sort of representative in there,” McPeek said, adding of Dreamquist tackling turf, “I think if you’ve got a 2-year-old filly ready to go a distance of ground, it’s perfect — regardless of surface.”
McPeek is looking at the $750,000 Gun Runner Dueling Grounds Derby on Sept. 10 for Fighting Seabee, last year’s winner of Saratoga’s Grade 3 With Anticipation on turf. Fighting Seabee hasn’t raced since he was seventh in the Nov. 30 Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs.
“He’s a really nice horse,” McPeek said. “He had a little issue with an ankle that cost us a significant amount of time. Something that was supposed to be simple got complicated, but he’s doing super right now. I rather run him against straight 3-year-olds than to come in against older horses, even in an allowance race. I don’t think he’ll have any problem with the distance; I think 1 5/16 miles will be ideal.”
Kenny McPeek is a three-time Kentucky Downs leading trainer: 1995, 2000 (a tie) and 2003. “Yeah, when the purses were a quarter what they are now,” he said with a laugh. “Now the hard part is getting in. You enter and you look up and there might be 40 entries. But I think with Churchill Downs running and the purses a lot stronger here for Derby Week, that might lighten up the entries in Kentucky Downs, though I still think they’ll have big fields.
“It’s great to have a grass meet for everybody. It’s a really neat little place to go racing. I think it affords (horse racing for) the Tennessee or Nashville market; it’s a close visit for them. I always enjoy going down there. And it’s an easy drive from Louisville or Lexington.”