03/30/2010 11:00PM

McPeek hard-pressed to top himself


LEXINGTON, Ky. - It was late last summer when Ken McPeek started thinking about what lay ahead at Keeneland.

"I told my crew, 'We're going to be the leading trainer at Keeneland this fall,' " recalled McPeek.

Darned if they weren't. McPeek and company absolutely slayed 'em, sending out 17 winners, the most at a fall meet since D. Wayne Lukas had 17 in 1995.

Half a year later, McPeek is hoping for a big spring at Keeneland, too, although he doesn't expect to come close to his results of last fall. He has consolidated everything back to Kentucky after wintering in Florida with the biggest part of his stable and having another 10 horses in California.

"Hopefully we'll get six, seven, eight wins," he said. "I think we can make a run at it, although we don't have quite the depth we had in the fall and don't have many 2-year-olds to run. But we are consolidated and should be fairly strong."

The current big horse in the McPeek barn won't make an appearance at the meet, since Noble's Promise will run next Saturday, April 10, in the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park.

Champion heads Ashland

A compelling rematch of the principals from the Grade 1 Alcibiades Stakes here last fall will take place Saturday when Kentucky Oaks hopefuls clash in the first Grade 1 race of the spring meet, the $400,000 Ashland Stakes.

Eight 3-year-old fillies are entered in the 1 1/16-mile Ashland, most notably She Be Wild, the 2-year-old filly champion of 2009. Last fall in the Alcibiades, She Be Wild finished second as the 6-5 favorite to Negligee, while Beautician was a troubled fifth as the 2-1 second choice. All three are back for the Ashland.

Modest field seen for Blue Grass

Keeneland racing officials are expecting perhaps seven to nine 3-year-olds to run next Saturday in their marquee race, the Grade 1, $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes. None of the prospects is widely regarded among the top five or so contenders for the May 1 Kentucky Derby, although it's possible that a big performance could change that.

Odysseus, winner of the Tampa Bay Derby last out for Padua Stables, is arguably the most accomplished horse set to go. Odysseus had his final prerace workout Wednesday over a fast surface at the Palm Meadows training center in Florida, going five furlongs in 1:01.40, handily. Odysseus, a Malibu Moon colt trained by Tom Albertrani, is scheduled to ship Sunday to Keeneland.

Others confirmed for the Blue Grass are Aikenite, Codoy, Interactif, Make Music for Me, and Paddy O'Prado. Drosselmeyer is a possibility for the Blue Grass or the $325,000 Coolmore Lexington Stakes a week later, while Giant's Tomb and Homeboykris also are Blue Grass possibles.

Dogwood Stable recently announced that Garrett Gomez has picked up the mount on Aikenite.

Informed Decision expected for Vinery

Informed Decision, the 2009 Eclipse Award winner in the filly-mare sprint category, is expected to make her 5-year-old debut next Thursday in the Grade 1 Vinery Madison Stakes.

Last year, Informed Decision beat heavily favored Ventura by a head in the seven-furlong Madison. They eventually ran one-two in that same order in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Santa Anita.

Derby Museum reopening

The Kentucky Derby Museum will showcase memorabilia from the 2009 Derby victory by Mine That Bird when it reopens April 18 following a $5.5 million renovation.

Among the items that will be on display are the cowboy hat and crutches of trainer Chip Woolley, and a horseshoe, halter, and blanket worn by Mine That Bird.

The museum incurred heavy damage in a flood last August, prompting its closing and subsequent renovation.

Tamburello returning

Amanda Tamburello said she will ride races at Keeneland this meet after making a full recovery from a potentially devastating head injury suffered last October, when she lost consciousness and fell at a social gathering.

Tamburello, 32, competes with a 10-pound apprenticeship, having won once in 17 mounts since starting her career last July.

* Chief Counsel, fourth in the Lane's End Stakes last weekend at Turfway Park, probably will run next in the Lexington or the April 24 Derby Trial at Churchill Downs, said Elliott Walden, racing manager for WinStar Farm.

WinStar already is loaded in Derby prospects with Endorsement, Super Saver, Rule, Drosselmeyer, and American Lion.

* Maximus Ruler, a Kentucky Derby hopeful until being sidelined with a minor cannon bone injury, returned to light training following a layoff of about six weeks when jogging Monday at Churchill for trainer Clark Hanna.

"We'll have him checked out again around the first of May and hopefully be able to go from there," said Hanna.

* Friday is College Scholarship Day at Keeneland. Ten scholarships worth $1,000 each will be raffled off throughout the day. Track officials expect 3,000 or more students to register in what has proved to be a highly successful promotion in attracting young fans to the track.

* In years past, the first condition book of the Churchill spring meet has run only through Derby Day, but the first book for the 2010 meet runs 14 days, through May 16.

"Horsemen want to plan farther ahead, so we thought we'd change it up to meet their needs," said Churchill's racing secretary, Ben Huffman.

* In what has become an annual tradition, Churchill has moved its simulcast operations to nearby Trackside in time for the Keeneland spring meet so as to concentrate on preparations for the Derby.

* Tickets are now on sale for $150 apiece for the annual Kentucky Derby Trainers Dinner sponsored by the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders. More information on the April 27 event, which is held at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Louisville, is available from Vickie Garcia at the KTOB at (859) 259-1643.