11/05/2001 12:00AM

McPeek has a happy dilemma


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - His options are plentiful and enviable. Ken McPeek soon will plot out a course of action for his dynamic 2-year-olds, Repent and Harlan's Holiday, a task in which he is reveling.

"This is the best," McPeek said the morning after Harlan's Holiday trounced a solid field in Sunday's Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs. "You love having problems like this."

A few days before Harlan's Holiday won the Iroquois, McPeek somewhat committed Repent, his Breeders' Cup Juvenile runner-up, to running next in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes here closing day, Nov. 24. But after the Iroquois, the KJC also became a logical spot for Harlan's Holiday. Like any sensible trainer, McPeek wants to keep his stars separated as long as possible.

"One will probably run here, and the other will run in the Remsen" at Aqueduct the same day, he said. "Maybe one will run here, and the other won't run. These are 2-year-olds, and they've both done pretty much so far. The main thing is to get them to the Kentucky Derby the right way, and as everyone knows, timing is half the battle regarding the Derby."

McPeek, whose main winter base is Gulfstream Park, said he doesn't even want to think about how he will keep Repent, owned by Select Stable, and Harlan's Holiday, owned by Jack Wolf and Barry Berkelhammer, from running against each other in Florida. "A whole lot can happen between now and then," he said.

Incredibly, for all he has accomplished here and elsewhere, McPeek won a Churchill stakes for the first time when Harlan's Holiday captured the Iroquois. McPeek saddled Tejano Run to finish third in the 1994 Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Churchill and second in the 1995 Derby, and also has numerous stakes placings in races such as the KJC, Golden Rod and WHAS Stakes.

"It was good to finally win a stake here, McPeek said. "Now we can look ahead to bigger ones."

Cunning Play, Perkins to bypass Florida

While Pocahontas winner Lotta Rhythm likely will proceed to the closing-day Golden Rod, the KJC's filly counterpart, the filly she defeated by a neck, Cunning Play, will not.

"She's getting a rest," said Diane Perkins, owner-trainer of Cunning Play. "Our goal is to get her back next spring for the big race right here," the Kentucky Oaks.

Perkins said she faces a dilemma about how to prep Cunning Play this winter. "I've been turned down for stalls at Gulfstream, Payson Park, and Palm Beach Downs," she said. "The Hialeah closing has really created a problem for many people, including myself."

Love those bobbleheads

The attendance here Saturday was 19,806, the largest at a fall meet for a non-Breeders' Cup day since 1990, and markedly higher than a typical fall Saturday crowd of 10,000 to 12,000. Clearly the reason was the Pat Day bobblehead doll giveaway, even though repeat-admission "spinners" could not have accounted for a major portion of that. Churchill reached its 10,000 limit about a half-hour after gates opened; a voucher was given with each paid admission, and at most admission gates, to return to the end of the line would have meant getting shut out.

Churchill officials were pleasantly surprised at the overwhelming response to the giveaway. They are considering a similar bobblehead giveaway for next spring with Churchill Charlie, the track's mascot.

Woods, Vitek escape injury

Jockeys Charlie Woods Jr. and Justin Vitek escaped serious injury in the second race Sunday when Da Big Dawg, ridden by Woods, broke down in the stretch, causing Vitek's mount, Upgrade, to fall over him.

Woods only recently returned to action after having been on a lengthy layoff for the third time in three-plus years. Both he and Vitek were bruised in the spill but otherwise pronounced okay after being transported to a local hospital.

Da Big Dawg, a $7,500 claimer trained by Rob O'Connor, was euthanized. Upgrade was not seriously hurt.

Victor Avenue retired

Victor Avenue, an 8-year-old gelding whose biggest career victory came in the Grade 2 Fall Highweight in 1996, has been retired, said owner Greg James.

"He was great to us, so we're going to be good to him," said James.

Victor Avenue, trained early in his career by the late Jim Keefer before being turned over to Bernie Flint, earned nearly $500,000 in a yeoman-like career.