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Ken McPeek trainee galloping in the Saratoga drizzle

Ken McPeek trainee galloping in the Saratoga drizzle

Golden Ticket and Last Gunfighter break from their outer posts in the Whitney Handicap (I)

Golden Ticket and Last Gunfighter break from their outer posts in the Whitney Handicap (I)

Oaks Octet #8: Pure Fun

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(Pure Prize x Chelsea Green, Key to the Mint)

  • Trainer: Ken McPeek (Curlin, Harlan’s Holiday, Take Charge Lady)
  • Jockey: Rosie Napravnik (1st on Believe You Can last year)
  • Owned by: Magdalena Racing
  • Record: 10:3-1-2
  • Earnings: $353,699
  • Best speed figures: 88 Beyer, 100 Equibase

Background: Kenny McPeek took a shot in the dark when he shipped Pure Fun out west to play underdog in the Hollywood Starlet (I), and her shut-out race caught the attention of the racing world when she fired big to go from last to first in a romping effort. A golden daughter of Pure Prize,

Prep Schedule: Raced twice as a two-year-old and proved plenty then, winning her maiden special weight at Aqueduct by a commanding 9 1/2 lengths before stretching out another furlong to to take the 9-furlong Demoiselle (II) by 1 1/4 lengths wire-to-wire with minimal encouragement. She ran clear of the crowd again in her three-year-old debut in the Rachel Alexandra (III) at Fair Grounds, running away to win by 3 3/4 lengths, then showed up strong to win the Fair Grounds Oaks (II)— both at 1 1/16 miles.

Pedigree: Pure Fun draws some strong influence from a great distaff family in a strategic linebreeding map to Northern Dancer. Sire Pure Prize dabbled on both dirt and turf, winning the Kentucky Cup Classic at 9 furlongs on dirt before calling it quits, becoming a successful sire of mainly turf horses. Pure Prize is royally bred, being by Storm Cat and out of the excellent Seeking the Gold daughter Heavenly Prize, who won countless G1 routing on dirt. Heavenly Prize’s granddam Blitey won the 1979 Test and Ballerina Stakes, while Blitey’s dam Lady Pitt capped off victories in the Coaching Club American Oaks, Delaware Oaks, and Mother Goose Stakes. Now what about Pure Fun’s own dam? Sired by G1 dirt runner Key to the Mint, Chelsea Green did not do much on her own, but being out of stakes-placed Chelseanna makes her a half sister to stakes winner Lady Tap (by Pleasant Tap). Pure Fun is linebred to Northern Dancer and Bold Ruler, featuring 3 mentions of the former and 2 of the latter in the first five generations.

Estimated TrueNicks Rating: A Variant: 2.86

Running Style: Closer

Pros: Pure Fun has some big back-class and some potential to move forward on her third start of the year. As a closer in a field full of speedballs and a horse with a past big speed figure win at Churchill, she has even more upset potential.

Cons: She has yet to duplicate her Hollywood Starlet form and really hasn’t sparkled at all in either start this year.

Final Word: Likely to be ignored on the toteboard due to her poor recent form, it is worth noting that Pure Fun won at Churchill Downs on the dirt, winning that start in a romp. From a figures-standpoint, she has to gain a lot of ground, but should the pace fall apart in the stretch she could work her way up there. Maybe hopefully that strong distaff side of Pure Prize will poke through!

Derby Dozen #7: Java’s War

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(War Pass x Java, by Rainbow Quest [GB])

  • Trainer: Ken McPeek (Sarava, Harlan’s Holiday, Curlin)
  • Jockey: Julien Leparoux (7th last year on Union Rags)
  • Owned by: Charles Fipke
  • Record: 7:3-1-1
  • Earnings: $672,091
  • Best speed figures: 89 Beyer, 103 Equibase

Background: The second of the two very promising War Pass colts in the Kentucky Derby, Java’s War commanded attention as one of last year’s best two-year-old colts— on grass. Changing surfaces, he has yet to collect a dirt victory but looks plenty capable with upset trainer Ken McPeek on deck to train the smallish bay colt with owner/breeder Charles Fipke of Jersey Town/Perfect Shirl fame looking on with pride.

Prep Schedule: Java’s War closed out his two-year-old year a stakes winner on grass and G1-placed on all-weather, showing boldness and determination. He made his first dirt start as a two-year-old with a poor trip in the Kentucky Jockey Club (II) where he dwelt at the rear after a wide and slow start. Taking a layoff, he rebounded impressively as a three-year-old in the Tampa Bay Derby (II), losing by 3 to Verrazano, before taking the 9-furlong Blue Grass Stakes (I) in a gutsy closing performance from dead last to win by a neck over Palace Malice.

Pedigree: Sired by Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (I) winner War Pass, Java’s War draws from his sire line some early and potential distance ability from grandsire Cherokee Run, who flashed plenty of speed that could last. Dam Java [GB] is a daughter of the unraced Rainbow Quest [GB] out of Island Jamboree, a turfer who was G1-placed going 9 furlongs. Java has a number of other offspring, but Java’s War is by far her best to date. Inbreeding-wise, Java’s War flashes a bunch through his linebreeding to the distance-grabbing Euro Blushing Groom [FR] and two mentions of Raise a Native (Native Dancer), both in the first five generations.

Estimated TrueNicks Rating: A++ Variant 7.06

Running Style: Closer

Pros: Java’s War was a very good two-year-old overlooked by the fact he ran on grass and poly. He looks to be peaking right on schedule and runs happy.

Cons: The chance we have another Animal Kingdom on our hands is forever unlikely, and many would scoff that a horse that is probably better on turf could go on to win the Derby as the field’s deepest deep closer. Julien Leparoux also doesn’t help support his case as one of the glitchiest riders I’ve ever seen and therefore do not trust with a big race.

Final Word: Java looked so amazing in the Tampa Bay Derby (II) paddock I quickly isolated him as one to watch for— even on dirt, which he appears to handle plenty well. McPeek rarely brings a mule to the races, and the fact he looks so good and is doing so well makes him a top longshot bet.

This happened today.

This happened today.

Early JCGC jitters on my behalf, all of them for Atigun! He’s been so close a number of times, but hasn’t won anything substantial yet so I’m kind of hoping one of my last Triple Crown trail faves can finally break through with a little more running room. He’s come a long way since he was my longshot pick of the litter in the Rebel Stakes!
Dollars to donuts, when he DOES win big I’ll get more unftastic pictures of his pretty colty head. (Photo by Skip Dickstein)

Early JCGC jitters on my behalf, all of them for Atigun! He’s been so close a number of times, but hasn’t won anything substantial yet so I’m kind of hoping one of my last Triple Crown trail faves can finally break through with a little more running room. He’s come a long way since he was my longshot pick of the litter in the Rebel Stakes!

Dollars to donuts, when he DOES win big I’ll get more unftastic pictures of his pretty colty head. (Photo by Skip Dickstein)

A horse that is UNF from every angle: Atigun! (Photo by Al Bello)

A horse that is UNF from every angle: Atigun! (Photo by Al Bello)

Racing Beat: June 3

One more week until we know if it rains on the Triple Crown drought.

Someone asked on Tumblr at one point why people gravitate towards certain horses while ignoring or cold-shouldering the others… they’re all beautiful horses right? THAT’S NOT THE WAY OUR FANDOM WORKS, SON!

I am so glad Hollywood’s back in session. I do love Vic Stauffer’s calls.

1989 almost-Triple Crowner Sunday Silence raced without Bute or Lasix. Chew that one over.

If I’ll Have Another hasn’t given you a thrill yet, seek out undefeated three-year-old Camelot, who has just won the Epsom Derby and looks to end the English Triple Crown drought which has lasted since Njinsky completed the trio in 1970.

GAME ON DUDE, GAME ON DUDE, GAME ON DUDE!

Typical big business and Miami practices: Calder plans to charge $5 a day rent to dorm dwellers. Yeah, because that’s a real good idea for a mid-range track to recoup its losses.

Girl power reigns supreme in Boston: Jacqueline Davis kicked off opening day at Suffolk Downs with four wins!

Best wishes to Rapid Redux on his retirement at Old Friends. They needed a new star act after the passing of a couple horses somewhat recently.

Can Kenny McPeek pull off another Triple Crown upset this year with Unstoppable U or Atigun? Unlikely, but with Sarava at 70-1… yeesh.

Alpha's starting to look like one of those kids who doesn't show up to school the day a big project is due!

I’m not leaving anyone out of consideration for winning the Belmont. While I still insist Animal Kingdom would have won had he not been slammed at the start, I had Ruler On Ice pegged for second-last in front of Isn’t He Perfect.

Tweet o’ the Week: a conversation with I’ll Have Another himself, and proof his stable ponystole my line! (Yeah I figured I would have no luck giving IHA cookies at Belmont, but it was worth the try)

Going to the Thoroughbred races, keeping "track" of the memories. Obsessively providing a comprehensive and personal glance at the sport of kings through original photography, handicapping analysis, editorials, and much more.

Tracks visited: Calder, Saratoga, Belmont, Suffolk, Aqueduct.


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