10/25/2005 11:00PM

Longtime owner reaches big show


ELMONT, N.Y. - It would have been a grand sight, and so appropriate, to have seen Norfolk Stakes winner Brother Derek going postward on Saturday in the $1.5 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile with jockey Alex Solis adorned in the true colors of his owner.

Alas, there seems to be no wiggle room in the rules pertaining to design, and modifications will be required. As strict constructionists on such matters, The Jockey Club declined to approve Brother Derek's set of silks displaying a colorful graphic logo that bore a striking resemblance to the universally recognizable feathered mascot of the National Broadcasting Company, home of the Breeders' Cup telecast.

Tough luck, Cecil Peacock.

"I thought that I might have a little trouble with NBC, but it never got that far," said Peacock, who will be making his Breeders' Cup debut as owner of Brother Derek. "I was ready to tell them that I was called Peacock long before NBC was using it."

True enough. Although the NBC radio network was formed in 1926, the year before Peacock was born, the gaudy bird was not introduced until the network began experimenting with color television programming in 1953.

Peacock was in agriculture at the time, in his native Alberta, but his real future was in oil. He bought his first well in 1971, doing business as Peacock Energy, and then bought his first racehorse to mark the occasion.

"I was 18 when I first went to the races at Northlands Park, in Edmonton, and I promised myself if I could afford it, I would own a horse one day," Peacock said. "As it turned out, I needed the oil business to afford the horses."

He is too modest. Peacock's horses - a variety of claimers and regional stakes runners - have held up their end of the deal pretty well. Dan Hendricks, who trains the Peacock string in Southern California, refers to the owner as "lucky and smart," which can be a deadly combination at any level of the game.

Peacock campaigned 1997 British Columbia horse of the year Liberty Road, and in 2003 his colors flew high with California-bred 2-year-old champion Don'tsellmeshort, winner of stakes at Santa Anita, Fairplex Park, and Del Mar.

Brother Derek has taken Peacock to the big rooms for the first time, beginning with his victory in the Norfolk at Santa Anita on Oct. 2. The race made good on Hendricks's promise of the summer, when he predicted Brother Derek would turn out to be a good colt. Just how good remains to be seen.

The Norfolk has yielded past Breeders' Cup Juvenile winners Chief's Crown, Capote, Success Express, Brocco, and Anees, but this time around the race is not being viewed by handicappers as a key indicator. First Samurai, Stevie Wonderboy, Henny Hughes, and Stream Cat are generating the most prerace heat, with Sorcerer's Stone, Private Vow, and the Irish invader Ivan Denisovich given reasonable chances as well.

At the Wednesday morning Breeders' Cup draw, Peacock and his lifelong friend Fran Dalquist sat with their trainer in blissful anonymity and kept the mood light. Their horse drew post 13 in the 14-horse Juvenile and was hung at odds of 20-1.

"At least it's a free breakfast," Peacock said, mopping up his syrup with a sausage in a pancake blanket.

"Hard to call it free," Hendricks noted, "when it's $15,000 to enter and $30,000 to run."

"And we'll have some fun tonight, going into town tonight for a show," Dalquist said. "We'll be seeing 'Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.' "

"That's what you might be calling me Sunday morning," Hendricks said. "Or worse."

Hendricks is not the first trainer to send out a Breeders' Cup runner from a wheelchair, in his case the result of a motocross crash in July of 2004. England's Dick Hern (crippled in a riding accident) nearly won the 1990 Sprint at Belmont with the shadow-jumping Dayjur, while Bill Shoemaker, rendered quadriplegic when he rolled his Bronco, watched Diazo run sixth in the 1993 Classic at Santa Anita.

Peacock, who has been with Hendricks about 10 years, never gave changing trainers a second thought.

"There's a lot of trainers not in wheelchairs I'd never give a horse to," he said. "Dan has risen to the challenge. I think he's doing great.

"There's an art to training a horse, just like there is drilling for oil," Peacock went on. "You know it's so dark down there at three to four thousand feet. You have to visualize it. And you have to throw in a little luck as well."

He could have been talking about a young racehorse. Don'tsellmeshort was a relative bargain at $75,000, but his success ended up costing Peacock the next time around when his full brother - Brother Derek - went through the ring at the Barretts sale of 2-year-olds last March. (Both were bred by Mary Caldwell, of the famous auctioneering family.) The price was $275,000, more than Peacock had ever spent on a horse, but at least the investment has begun to produce on the racetrack.

"I know it's silly, and I try to control my emotions," Peacock said. "But there's just something about having your own horse out there.

"Drilling a dry hole is kind of like losing a horse race," he added. "Only I never took a dry hole as seriously as I do when I lose a race."