03/18/2009 11:00PM

McPeek nominates pair to English Oaks


Ken McPeek hasn't let Dream Empress's poor performance in the Herecomesthebride Stakes at Gulfstream Park last Sunday put a damper on his dreams of sending her to Epsom for the English Oaks.

Dream Empress, winner of the Alcibiades Stakes, was among 77 horses nominated Thursday to the 1 1/2-mile Oaks on June 5. McPeek also nominated his recent Gulfstream allowance winner Striking Dancer.

"Dream Empress found the turf a little too firm for her at Gulfstream and Kent Desormeaux thought she wasn't too comfortable on it," McPeek said from his Magdalena Farm in Lexington, Ky. "The plan is to run her in the Ashland Stakes on Polytrack at Keeneland on April 4 and then send her over to Britain. The Oaks has been the plan for a long time now. The mile and a half should be right up her alley because she's out of a Nijinsky mare.

"I have been to Epsom and it's certainly an idiosyncratic course, but we've also got quite an idiosyncratic setup here and it's very much a European approach to training horses."

McPeek used that approach to good effect in 2004 when he sent Hard Buck to Ascot, where he finished second in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes. That was the last time an American-trained horse has been saddled for a race in Europe.

McPeek also sounded an upbeat note about Striking Dancer.

"She is an impressive filly and we are pretty confident that she is a group race performer," he said. "She's very, very talented and may even have more potential than Dream Empress."

"She's going to run in the Bonnie Miss Stakes at Gulfstream on March 27. We'll see how both horses come out of their next races, but I would anticipate sending them over in mid-April. Ideally, they would both have a prep race in England before the Oaks, possibly over 10 furlongs."

McPeek also revealed European plans for his Kentucky Derby candidate Theregoesjojo, the runner-up to Quality Road in the Fountain of Youth Stakes.

"He will run in the Florida Derby and if he wins or places in the first three, he will be nominated for the Epsom Derby," which will be run on June 6.