McPeek-trainee could point toward Preakness if Derby is off the table
LEXINGTON, Ky.—The Grade III Stonestreet Lexington carried few points to push a horse into the Kentucky Derby but that made the race no less dramatic for fans. King Fury at 18-1 lived up to his name as he upset the field on a seriously sloppy track.
Piloted by Javier Castellano and stretching out from a six-furlong maiden win, Nobel Reflection took the lead to set the pace and fast fractions of :22.39, :45.87 and 1:11.30. Two-time undefeated Swiftsure and Baffert-trainee Bezos were hot on his heels.
As the pace wore on the front-runners, a patient jockey Brian Hernandez Jr., who had King Fury biding his time, found room on the rail to weave through the tiring leaders. Hernandez Jr., notched King Fury ($38.40) up a gear on the turn who then staved off a late rally by Unbridled Honor ($15.00) to win by 2 1/4 lengths. Starininmydreams was a length behind paying $5.80 for show. It was a profitable trifecta for any punter.
“They were going fast, and my horse, (King Fury) actually jumped away from (the gate) really, really good. Then going around the turn, he went to hopping up and down from the dirt, said Hernandez, Jr.
“Once he got down to the fence and midway down the backside, he went to traveling so good. I got to the five-eighths pole and went ‘Man, they’re in trouble from this point’ because he was just doing it the right way and traveling and taking us the whole way. He was so powerful today that I knew I would just be able to pick my way through like we did. He was just there for me the whole way.”
The chestnut colt by Curlin was Flatter mare Taris’ first foal. The dam is a millionaire graded stakes winner with a record of 13 starts, eight wins, two seconds and two thirds. The Simon Callaghan-trainee’s last win was the Humana Distaff GI at Churchill in 2016. She is out of Theatrical (IRE) mare Comedy.
Trained by Kenny McPeek for the partnership of Fern Circle Stables and Three Chimneys Farm LLC, King Fury was bred in Kentucky by Heider Family Stables LLC. He was purchased by Fern Circle at the Fasig-Tipton August 2019 Saratoga N.Y. Select Yearling Sale for $950,000.
“This has always been a really, really good horse. We were a little aggressive with him last fall. I’m going to give a big tip of the hat to the (co-owner) Three Chimneys team. They said, ‘Hey, send him to us for a little while. Let’s give him a little break’. He needed it. We tested him at the highest levels and he came back bigger and stronger,” McPeek expressed.
“I’m really proud of everybody involved. I’ve got a great team of people that help me. I channeled a little Alice Chandler today, because what a fantastic woman she’s been for horse racing. It’s an awesome win for (co-owner) Paul Fireman and his family. I wish he was here – I think he’s playing golf in the Dominican (Republic) right now. It’s a good day.”
King Fury completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.50 as the field of nine 3-year-olds competed for 34 points in the final day of Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifying races of 2021. The top four finishers earned 20-8-4-2 points.
The order of finish:
King Fury earned 20 points and now ranks number 27. Unbridled Honor earned 10 points, Starininmydreams earned 4 and Proxy earned 2 points for a total of 36 and stands at number 21 on the leaderboard. Coming in fifth was Nobel Reflection, It’s My House was sixth under West Coast powerhouse jockey Umberto Rispoli; Swiftsure finished seventh; Hockey Dad, number 29 on the leaderboard, was eighth under Mario Guetierrez; and, Bezos wrapped up the race under Drayden Van Dyke.
“He was not loving this (sloppy track), that is for sure. I knew that in the first turn. He kept running at the end because he is a distance horse and he is supposed to pass horses,” Proxy’s jockey, Velazquez said.
Lexington Stakes GIII Replay
Will King Fury or Proxy compete in the Kentucky Derby? That all depends on the next few weeks and how all of the horses ship and train. King Fury returned to McPeek’s division at Churchill Downs on Saturday night.
“We’ll check him after this race. I think he’s going to handle a mile and a quarter without any trouble,” said McPeek.
McPeek followed up on Sunday: “All good; we are real proud of him. If his points get him in to the Kentucky Derby, we will probably run. It is his home track and he has won there. If he doesn’t get in the Derby, he will run in the Preakness (on May 15.) He seems like a horse that is ready to do all that. We will have to see how that ball bounces. It is out of our control, but we will keep his work schedule the same.”
What’s in store for the rest of the field?
Dallas Stewart, trainer and co-owner of third-place finisher Starrininmydreams said: “He’s a really nice horse. He showed his quality this afternoon. It was a really nice effort. We’ll get him back to Louisville and plan for the next one.”
Mike Stidham, trainer of fourth place Proxy, explained: “I knew when Johnny had to (urge) him right away on the first turn that he looked like he was not handling the sloppy track. We had in the back of our minds to try him on the turf, and now that is something we will look at. Maybe not immediately but in the near future.”
Past The Wire Staff
Photo of King Fury (Coady Photography)