Trainer Kenny McPeek said a more “consolidated” barn led to better results this fall, and so the trend will continue as his string moves in unison from increasingly cold Kentucky to Florida’s Payson Park Training Center.
There, McPeek’s Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) winner Signalman will “get settled in,” rest to cure any lingering soreness from his 2-year-old campaign and gear up for the peak of the 2019 Kentucky Derby trail.
McPeek, in an interview with the Horse Racing Talk podcast this week, said Gulfstream Park’s Grade 2, $400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes on March 2 would be “an ideal spot” for the son of General Quarters to debut as a 3-year-old.
“Nothing’s set in stone right now,” he said. “We’re going to make this one step of many.”
Good Magic, the eventual 2018 Derby runner-up, also started his sophomore season in the Fountain of Youth before wheeling back to win Keeneland's Blue Grass (G2), another of McPeek's favorite spots. If Signalman’s ready earlier, the Grade 2, $350,000 Holy Bull Stakes precedes on Feb. 2 at Gulfstream.
Signalman sat behind the pace in last Saturday’s Kentucky Jockey Club, then split horses in the Churchill Downs stretch under jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. to beat Plus Que Parfait by a neck.
“This colt’s very workmanlike,” McPeek said on Horse Racing Talk. “He’s just extremely an physical horse to be around — so big and strong — and Brian threaded the needle with him there Saturday to get it done.”
Hernandez Jr. also rode Cairo Cat, the McPeek-trained winner of another Derby prep, the Iroquois (G3). One of the barn’s gallop boys tipped the jockey off that “Signalman’s just as good.”
Only a $32,000 purchase — McPeek is known for finding bargains — Signalman broke his maiden at second asking Sept. 1 at Saratoga, then ran second to 70-1 upsetter Knicks Go in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland. In the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, he rallied from near the back of the pack to overcome the 14 post, finishing in the money.
“They knew he was going to be something special from day one, and he’s gotten better and better with each race,” Hernandez Jr. said. “His race in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile was phenomenal to come from the 14 hole like he did and be able to get to the fence and make his run to be third. That was big.”
Cairo Cat, McPeek’s other 2-year-old colt to win a stakes this year, missed the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile due to a slight setback but is expected to return in 2019. King Ford (Oct. 28) and Harvey Wallbanger (Nov. 17) also prevailed in open maiden special weight races during Churchill Downs’ recently completed Fall Meet.
Horse Racing Nation