06/16/2008 12:00AM

McPeek pair figure best in allowances


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - When you're hot, well, your stakes horses get to run in allowance races. And so it goes for the sizzling stable of Ken McPeek, who on Wednesday at Churchill Downs will run A to the Croft and Racecar Rhapsody as solid favorites in what appear to be made-to-order spots.

Three allowance races are on tap Wednesday, with the eighth-race feature being a $50,400 turf sprint for older horses. Mr. Nightlinger looks like he will be exceedingly difficult to catch and beat in that race, considering he is entered off back-to-back victories in Grade 3 turf stakes, having gone gate-to-wire in capturing the April 13 Shakertown at Keeneland and the May 2 Churchill Turf Sprint.

As stoutly as Mr. Nightlinger will be favored for trainer Bret Calhoun and jockey Jamie Theriot, so, too, will McPeek and jockey Robby Albarado in the two preceding races.

A to the Croft was a simple winner of her last start, a May 21 allowance that marked her grass debut. From her eight previous starts, the 3-year-old Menifee filly had been graded-stakes-placed on four occasions.

"The way she got over it last time, it looks like she could be a very good grass filly," McPeek said.

A to the Croft drew post 1 in the sixth race, a 1 1/16-mile turf allowance with a $45,200 purse and a second-level restriction.

Racecar Rhapsody ran huge in the May 17 Preakness last out, temporarily moving into second behind Big Brown before being passed in deep stretch by Macho Again and Icabad Crane and having to settle for fourth. The Preakness was the third start for the Tale of the Cat colt since he returned from a winter break.

"He needs to get in a winning mode," McPeek said. "This looks like a good spot with straight 3-year-olds, and he's had plenty of time since the Preakness."

Racecar Rhapsody, also assigned post 1, will face five other 3-year-olds under a first-level restriction in the seventh race, which carries a $43,100 purse and goes at 1 1/16 miles on the main track.

For McPeek, the outlook for Wednesday is typical of how his spring meet at Churchill has unfolded. Through Sunday, he had won with a remarkable 24 of 61 starters.

"We've just got some really good horses right now," he said. "I could've run these two horses in Wednesday for allowances a long time ago."