05/01/2002 11:00PM

I'm a fresh horse now


Each day through the Kentucky Derby, trainer Ken McPeek will share his thoughts with Marty McGee of Daily Racing Form in his Derby Diary. McPeek, 39, is the trainer of Harlan's Holiday, the race favorite.

We got post 14 for the Derby, which thrills me, because Edgar Prado is thrilled. All we wanted was to let Edgar pick the post, because he's the one who has to deal with it. If we had first pick, we were going to take 8 because Jack Wolf's 4-year-old daughter likes pink, and that's what the 8 saddlecloth is. It's all in fun.

I got a great night's sleep Wednesday night, so I'm ready to go. We're going to the Randy Romero benefit Thursday night at Coyote's. Friday night, we don't have anything planned, win or lose in the Oaks with Take Charge Lady. I'm a fresh horse right now.

If I had to bet horses behind Harlan's Holiday, I'd pick two: Blue Burner and Came Home. Blue Burner reminds me of Strike the Gold, and the way he's made, I think he's going to like this track. Plus, there's going to be a lot of pace for him, and I don't think the Wood set up for him at all. Came Home looks fantastic. When I saw him last fall in the paddock at the Breeders' Cup, I thought, "I can beat him." But now he's really filled out. I think he's going to be part of the mix.

If you asked what my favorite Derbies were, I'd have to say the first one I attended in 1981. I also had a great time at Swale's Derby in 1984. That was the only time I spent the whole day in the infield with my college buddies.

There's always so much electricity in the air on Derby Day. Maybe I'll try to make it over to the paddock on my crutches. We can call it the Hobble Over. It's such a big deal that I hate thinking about missing it.

Well, we're right on top of it now. I don't spend a lot of time thinking about making history, but one of the other trainers was kidding me, saying, "Hmmm . . . Ben Jones . . . Kenny McPeek . . . something just doesn't add up." I must admit it's an incredible thing to have a chance to join the greats. It'd be awesome to get there.