Updated on 09/16/2011 6:54AM

Get-acquainted time at McPeek barn


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Ken McPeek was in good spirits on Wednesday morning, and well he should have been after watching his two Kentucky Derby contenders, , turn in strong works over the fast Gulfstream Park racetrack.

"There are no jockey changes today," McPeek quipped after Harlan's Holiday breezed five-eighths in 59.20 seconds under his new rider, Edgar Prado, and Repent went the same distance in 59.80 seconds with his new pilot, Jerry Bailey, aboard.

Prado will ride Harlan's Holiday for the first time in the $1 million Florida Derby here March 16; Bailey has the assignment on Repent for the Louisiana Derby one week earlier.

"These were pretty much maintenance works for both horses," said McPeek. "And a chance for both riders to get acquainted with their new mounts. I thought both horses went very, very well. I'll probably work them again next Tuesday or Wednesday. Repent leaves for New Orleans on Thursday."

A field of seven or eight 3-year-olds appears likely for the Grade 1 Florida Derby and McPeek is concerned Harlan's Holiday's nemesis, Booklet, will again be able to dictate his own pace the way the race is shaping up. Harlan's Holiday was narrowly defeated by the front-running Booklet in both the Holy Bull and Fountain of Youth stakes earlier in the meet.

"Obviously we've got a few weeks to go, and things could change, but at the moment it looks like there is no other speed in there to run with Booklet," said McPeek. "I'm not sure how we're going to approach that situation if it does come up. Naturally, we'd like to see somebody look Booklet in the eye, and the idea of running a rabbit has been discussed."

But, said McPeek, "I don't think I have anything in my barn fast enough to keep up with him" other than the filly Take Charge Lady, who is "definitely going" to the March 9 Fair Grounds Oaks.

"Another option would be to have Harlan lay closer and dog him, which he is capable of doing."

Take Charge Lady also worked Wednesday and was officially timed in 1:01 for five furlongs.

"I caught her in 59.60," said McPeek. "She also went very well."

Right now, McPeek said, the plan is for Take Charge Lady to run in the Fair Grounds Oaks, the Ashland, and then the Kentucky Oaks if all goes well.

"You know she worked with Repent one morning here several weeks ago and stayed right with him. I was thinking if Repent could talk he might have said, 'I know a filly who could beat you guys' when he won his last start at the Fair Grounds."

Despite all the pressure that comes with having two Derby and one Oaks contender at this time of year, McPeek continues to keep his sense of humor and is thoroughly enjoying the experience.

"It's fun," he said. "I just keep pinching myself every day."

Hennig: Two possible for Florida Derby

Trainer Mark Hennig has tossed the names of both Monthir and Personal Reward into the ring as possible starters in the Florida Derby.

finished fourth but was beaten less than a length by Nokoma following a stirring stretch duel under preliminary allowance conditions last Saturday. He had missed by just a nose to Showmeitall in the seven-furlong Hutcheson Stakes three weeks earlier. Personal Reward has won both his starts at this meet including an entry-level allowance race around two turns earlier this month.

"Personal Reward is doing really well, and I have no place else to run him here at the moment, although the Tampa Bay Derby is also a consideration," said Hennig. "There are other options for Monthir as well, including the Swale," run at seven furlongs on Florida Derby day, "or the Gotham. I have no riders lined up for either horse if they were to run in the Florida Derby. The race is still a ways off, and I might not make a decision on either one until entry day."

Hennig did confirm that Summer Colony will put her six-race winning streak on the line in Saturday's $200,000 Rampart Handicap.

"She's going great, it's been three weeks since she ran," said Hennig, adding that the 1 1/8-mile distance of the Rampart "is perfect for her."

Summer Colony has won her last six starts dating back to Aug. 17 including the Grade 2 La Canada Stakes at Santa Anita on Feb. 9.

"She was very professional winning in California and I hope we still haven't seen the best of her yet," Hennig said of Summer Colony, who he trains for owner-breeder Edward P. Evans. "Right now I'm not thinking about trying to maintain the winning streak but picking out races that suit her best, with our main focus the big races this summer at Saratoga and, of course, the Breeders' Cup."

Summer Colony was expected to share highweight of 118 pounds with Atelier in the Rampart but as of Wednesday it appears unlikely Atelier will start in the Grade 2 event.

"As far as I know she's not running," said Robbie Medina, assistant to Atelier's trainer, Shug McGaughey. "I just don't think Shug wants her to run a mile and one eighth the first time back. I guess if the race were to come up a short field he might change his mind, but right now I think his main goal is the Apple Blossom," the $500,000, Grade 1 race at Oaklawn Park on April 6.

Atelier has not started since she finished third behind stablemate Cat Cay in the Grade 2 Top Flight Handicap on Nov. 23.

A short field is likely for the Rampart and will be headed by Summer Colony and Forest Secrets. Other potential starters include Castlebrook, Happily Unbridled, and Unbridled Waters.

Big weekend for Ward fillies

This weekend will be a busy and perhaps extremely rewarding one for trainer John Ward Jr., who will send out Forest Secrets in the Rampart and Snow Dance as the highweight and likely favorite the following afternoon in the $100,000 Suwannee River Handicap. Both fillies finished second in their 2002 debuts, Forest Secrets in the Sabin Handicap and Snow Dance in the De La Rose.

"Both fillies are training well at Palm Beach Downs and on schedule for their starts this weekend," said Ward. "I was totally pleased with their efforts the first time back even in defeat and I would hope to get the same kind of performances out of them again the next time. A consistent race back from each of them this weekend, and we will have accomplished what we wanted in Florida this winter."

* Trainer Pat Byrne worked his two big guns, Duckhorn and Ethan Man, on Wednesday morning. Both went six furlongs in 1:12.80. Duckhorn could have designs on either the Creme Fraiche or Gulfstream Park handicaps, while Byrne was looking for a second-level allowance race around two turns for the promising 3-year-old Ethan Man.

* At Calder, Sir Bear worked an easy half-mile in 49.80 seconds on Wednesday as he continues to prepare for the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Handicap. Hal's Hope posted the bullet five-furlong work at 1:00.80.