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Arlington Park Barn Notes (6/16/04)

Contact: Graham Ross

In today's notes:


Trainer Ken McPeek, whose two starters in Sunday's $38,000 Mac Diarmida Handicap finished first and third in the Arlington Park feature, reported that both came out of the 12-furlong turf test in good order and would be pointed toward Arlington's Grade III Stars and Stripes Breeders' Cup Turf on July 4 at that same marathon distance.

However, also being primed for the Stars and Stripes, observing its 72nd renewal on Firecracker Day, is the McPeek-trained Hard Buck, one of the best marathon turf runners currently being campaigned in the United States.

Now owned by Team Victory II, the Brazilian-bred Hard Buck won the Grade I Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap Feb. 22 and then journeyed to the United Arab Emirates to finish a courageous second in the Grade I Palm Dubai Sheema Classic March 27.

After returning to the United States and given some time to recover from that intercontinental journey, the 5-year-old son of 1985 Kentucky Derby winner Spend a Buck ran in last Saturday's $100,000 Opening Verse Handicap at Churchill Downs and finished second to Senor Swinger despite lacking room at the half-mile pole.

"I've just kind of decided he wants a mile and a half," said McPeek after evaluating Hard Buck's Opening Verse performance in Louisville, "and the Stars and Stripes should be perfect."

Hard Buck is also nominated to this summer's Grade I Arlington Million, but McPeek downplayed Hard Buck's chances of starting in the centerpiece race of the Chicago Thoroughbred racing season.

"I'm just not sure that distance (a mile and a quarter) is long enough for him given the way he likes to run," McPeek said. (Although this winter's Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap was run at 10 furlongs, Hard Buck raced wide most of the way and was just up to tally by a head at the wire.)

McPeek's Art Variety, the hero of Sunday's Mac Diarmida, owned by Midnight Cry Stable & Team Victory II, will also be pointed toward the Stars and Stripes, as will Sunday's third-place finisher, the McPeek-trained Prodigus, owned by Late Night Stables LLC.

"I sure would like to win a race for that guy," said McPeek, speaking of Late Night Stables chief Bob Delaney. "Prodigus tries hard every time. He always seems to run well, but I haven't been able to win with him yet."

Before coming to the United States, Prodigus won a Group II mile and a half test in Brazil last year to complete a three-win streak in South America at the beginning of 2003.


Trainer Ken McPeek's successful Sunday at Arlington Park was preceded by two graded stakes wins on "Stephen Foster Super Saturday" at Churchill Downs.

The 41-year-old native of Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, saddled Raymond H. Cottrell Sr.'s Prince Arch to capture Churchill's Grade III Jefferson Cup and then won the Grade III Regret with Julie & John C. Marker's Sister Star.

Prince Arch, who had previously finished second twice to Kenneth L. & Sarah K. Ramsey's Kitten's Joy, proved the third time was the charm when turning the tables on his sophomore turf rival. Both Prince Arch and Kitten's Joy are nominated to Arlington Park's Mid-America Triple.

"I don't think I'll run Prince Arch in the entire Mid-America Triple," said McPeek, "but he'll be pointed toward the (Grade I) Secretariat (Aug. 14). I'll probably run him the Virginia Derby (GIII, July 10 at Colonial Downs) before that."


Louie J. Roussel III's Prospect Green -- nicknamed "Pepper" around the barn -- was nothing to sneeze at when the runner-up in Sunday's $38,000 Mac Diarmida Handicap. The 6-year-old rallied gamely along the rail to finish second by a head to Art Variety. However, despite that courageous performance, the gelded son of Green Dancer appears unlikely for the upcoming Grade III Stars and Stripes Breeders' Cup Turf.

"Probably not," said trainer Lara Van Deren, when asked about Prospect Green's likelihood in Arlington's traditional America's Birthday marathon. "We'll take a look at it. I have to talk to Louie before we decide for sure.

"He's not a very big horse," said Van Deren, "and because he's a little guy, we call him 'Pepper' around the barn. We were all screaming for 'Pepper" coming down the stretch on Sunday. He ran a big race, and he came back great, but that race (July 4) may be a little too soon for him."

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