Updated on 09/17/2011 10:37AM

McPeek keeps even keel

Trainer Ken McPeek could be represented by two horses in the Belmont Stakes, including Best Minister, shown winning the Sir Barton Stakes earlier this month at Pimlico.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Ken McPeek has a sense of history, and a sense of duty. As a fan, and then a trainer, he has seen how difficult it is to win the Triple Crown. But that will not stop him from trying to play spoiler for the second straight year.

Last year, McPeek sent out 70-1 shot Sarava, who scored the biggest upset in Belmont Stakes history and stopped War Emblem's quest to win the Triple Crown. This year, McPeek will have at least one and as many as two horses seeking to stop Funny Cide, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, from capturing the 135th Belmont Stakes next Saturday.

McPeek will definitely run Best Minister, who is seeking to emulate Sarava by parlaying a victory in Pimlico's Sir Barton Stakes into a win in the Belmont. He also might run the lightly raced Wild and Wicked, who has won his only two starts.

It has been quite a year for McPeek. Sarava's win, McPeek said Friday, is "without a doubt" the biggest victory of his career. "What I was most proud of was winning a classic before I turned 40," said McPeek, who turned 40 in August.

But that win encapsulated the soap opera life McPeek has led this past year. Only days before the Belmont, McPeek found out that Harlan's Holiday - the winner of the Florida Derby and Blue Grass Stakes earlier in the year - was being removed from his care. He is now trained by Todd Pletcher.

Sarava, whose profile was raised immeasurably by his Belmont win, never raced again for McPeek. In fact, he has never raced again for anyone. His owners sent him to trainer Bob Baffert, for whom Sarava has yet to start.

And this past winter, McPeek had the promising 3-year-old Ten Cents a Shine transferred from his care to D. Wayne Lukas, for whom Ten Cents a Shine has finished no better than eighth in four subsequent starts.

McPeek just copes and looks forward.

"We're pretty resilient," he said. "It's disappointing. We work hard to take good care of the horses, and I get great satisfaction out of seeing my owners win. But you've just got to pick yourself up and do it again. We're going to keep coming with different horses for different clients."

Best Minister, a son of Deputy Minister, ended up with McPeek when he pursued the colt following his being bought back at a 2-year-old in training sale last year in Florida. John Phillips, who bred the colt in partnership, agreed to sell 50 percent of Best Minister to a group McPeek brought to the table that includes former basketball great Dan Issel, well-known horse auctioneer John Henderson, as well as Don Blevins and Francis Whitman.

Best Minister has won his last two starts, including the Sir Barton. He raced twice last year before taking ill with colic, and did not make his first start this year until March 13. Because of his late start this year, Best Minister was not nominated to the Triple Crown and must be supplemented to the Belmont for $100,000.

"He's doing fantastic now," McPeek said. "He's a lovely mover, a lovely made horse. He's a big, leggy colt with a large shoulder and a great pedigree. He should have no trouble getting the distance, but he's going to need some things to go his way."

Best Minister arrived at Belmont Park this past week and is scheduled to work Sunday morning.

Wild and Wicked, a son of Wild Again, only owns victories against maidens at Keeneland and first-level allowance runners at Churchill Downs, but McPeek thinks he has as much raw ability as any horse he has trained.

"We need to make a decision as to whether we want to be aggressive or conservative," McPeek said. "He trains incredible. He's doing super. I think if I find an excuse not to run I'll take it, but I wouldn't be scared to run him."

Funny Cide a real looker

After getting a day off following his Wednesday workout, Funny Cide returned to the track Friday morning and cantered one lap the wrong way around the track under his exercise rider, Robin Smullen. Funny Cide came on the track around 8:45 a.m., and stood like a statue at the finish line, seemingly mindful of the click of cameras nearby, for 15 minutes before going about his business.

"His favorite thing is to stand and watch the other horses go by," Smullen said. "Not much bothers him. He jogged about an eighth of a mile, then he cantered. He's getting really strong."

Weather alters work schedule

The forecast for thunderstorms Saturday afternoon and potentially into Sunday has caused Empire Maker and Dynever to have their final workouts moved up to Saturday morning by their respective trainers, Bobby Frankel and Christophe Clement.