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McPeek takes two shots at a record-tying sixth Alcibiades

Marty McGee – Oct 06, 2021

Penny Saver wins a Sept. 24 maiden at Churchill
Coady Photography
Penny Saver wins her maiden by 9 1/2 lengths on Sept. 24. The 85 Beyer she earned is the highest in the 12-horse Alcibiades field.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Ken McPeek got an Alcibiades for the thumb last year when he sent out the one-two finishers. Now the 59-year-old trainer is intent on tying the record of six Alcibiades wins held by D. Wayne Lukas when he sends out a pair of contenders in a wide-open renewal of the Grade 1 race Friday at Keeneland.

McPeek surely would not mind emulating the results of 2020, when he was represented by Simply Ravishing and Crazy Beautiful as the first two finishers in the 1 1/16-mile Alcibiades. Unlike last year, when he watched via simulcast from Pimlico the day before he won the pandemic-postponed Preakness with Swiss Skydiver, McPeek will be on hand to saddle Mama Rina and Penny Saver in the 70th running of the $400,000 Alcibiades, a Win and You’re In event toward the Nov. 5 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.

“It looks like we’ve got another really nice group of 2-year-old fillies this year,” said McPeek, the leading trainer at the recently ended September meet at Churchill Downs. “These two, they’ve both shown the potential to compete at the top levels. Hopefully they’ll both get clean trips and a chance to run their best races.”

Mama Rina (post 6, Julien Leparoux) was a distant runner-up in her last start, the Sept. 18 Pocahontas at Churchill, behind Hidden Connection, one of the leading candidates for the BC Juvenile Fillies at Del Mar.

Penny Saver (post 10, Brian Hernandez Jr.) is wheeling back two weeks after an eye-catching score in a Sept. 24 maiden race at Churchill. The Super Saver filly earned an 85 Beyer Speed Figure in that 1 1/16-mile race, the highest of any in this lineup of 12.

Foremost among the other half-dozen or so contenders is Juju’s Map (post 1, Florent Geroux) and Matareya (post 7, Joel Rosario), a pair of Brad Cox fillies in off maiden romps. Cox won his first Alcibiades two years ago with British Idiom, who went on to clinch a divisional Eclipse Award when subsequently capturing the BC Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita.

Matareya, a Godolphin homebred by the late Pioneerof the Nile, is one of many unknowns in the field, having won off by herself in her only start, an Aug. 20 sprint at Ellis Park.

“We’ve always thought a lot of her,” said Cox. “You never know until they actually do it, but she sure acts like she’ll stretch out.”

Juju’s Map, owned by the Albaugh family of Iowa, won going a mile on closing weekend of the Ellis meet. “She’s got a little more experience than our other filly,” said Cox. “Hopefully Florent can work out the right kind of trip from the rail.”

With so much inexperience in the lineup, it’s hard to gauge how the pace might unfold. Both Cox fillies are eligible to make or force the issue, but there are several others breaking from outside posts who also could be prominent early, those being Pipeline Girl (post 9, James Graham), Diamond Wow (post 11, Mike Smith), and Runup (post 12, Joseph Ramos).

While there are no graded winners in the Alcibiades field, Diamond Wow won the Our Dear Peg at Gulfstream Park and Runup took the Sorority at Monmouth Park. Miss Interpret (post 2, Jose Ortiz) took the off-the-turf P.G. Johnson at Saratoga for Todd Pletcher.

Pletcher is the all-time stakes-winning trainer at Keeneland with 59 wins, but none have come in the Alcibiades. The newly minted Hall of Famer will be active throughout the meet with a 40-stall allotment.

The balance of the Alcibiades field is Sequist (post 3, Junior Alvarado) and Dream Lith (post 4, Adam Beschizza), fourth and fifth, respectively, behind division leader Echo Zulu in the Sept. 5 Spinaway at Saratoga; Distinctlypossible (post 8, Tyler Gaffalione), a once-raced maiden whose trainer, Chad Brown, obviously thinks highly enough of her to try Grade 1 company; and Myfavoritedaughter (post 5, Corey Lanerie), a well-traveled filly coming off a distant fourth in the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante.

Main-track 1 1/16-mile races at Keeneland begin and end at what is otherwise the sixteenth pole.

The Alcibiades, held every year since its 1952 inaugural, goes as the ninth of 10 races on a Friday opener that also includes the Grade 2 Phoenix (race 8). Post time for the Alcibiades is 5:45 p.m. Eastern. Two allowances (races 7 and 10) fill out a late pick four (races 7-10) offering a $200,000 pool guarantee.

In additon to Simply Ravishing, the McPeek fillies to win the Alcibiades were She’s a Devil Due (2000), Take Charge Lady (2001), Dream Empress (2008), and Restless Rider (2018). Lukas won his six from 1983 to 2003.

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