04/26/2005 12:00AM

McPeek to quit training, become bloodstock agent

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Sarava won the Belmont in 2002, helping Ken McPeek push his purse earnings that year past $6.6 million.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Ken McPeek, whose 82 career stakes victories as a Thoroughbred trainer include Sarava's win in the 2002 Belmont Stakes, announced Tuesday that he will quit training to become a bloodstock agent, effective July 1.

McPeek, 42, said he is in the process of turning over his stable of about 100 horses to his assistants and other trainers. Based primarily at Churchill Downs, McPeek said he has "given great thought" to this dramatic career change but said he will not rule out a return to training, given "the correct opportunity."

McPeek frequently has played a major role in the purchase of the horses he trained, including such stars as Tejano Run, Repent, Take Charge Lady, She's a Devil Due, Prince Arch, and Hard Buck. He said that his focus has shifted to "the challenge of finding a top-class racehorse" and that he will be attending all major sales, with particular emphasis on yearlings and the South American market. McPeek has traveled extensively to South America to buy horses over the last two years or so.

McPeek said the recent decision by owner Dan Borislow to move Wild Desert - who had been a Kentucky Derby prospect until he ran poorly in the April 16 Arkansas Derby - from McPeek to prominent New York trainer Rick Dutrow had "absolutely nothing to do" with his decision to switch positions within racing. In recent years, several top horses have been taken from McPeek and given to other trainers, most notably Harlan's Holiday and Sarava.

"This is something I've been planning on doing for years," McPeek said. "This is all positive, no negative. I've been buying horses and training horses for years, but I finally came to the realization that I can't do both. I'd rather do one well than both halfway. I honestly feel like I can serve more people as an agent and adviser."

McPeek, an Arkansas native who grew up in Lexington, Ky., and now lives in Louisville, has trained for nearly 20 years. His horses have won 767 races and earned more than $28.2 million. Easily his best year was 2002, when Sarava, at 70-1, became the longest shot ever to win the Belmont; Harlan's Holiday won the Florida Derby and Blue Grass Stakes; and Take Charge Lady made an unprecedented sweep at Keeneland by capturing the Ashland and Spinster to go with an Alcibiades victory the previous year. The McPeek stable earned more than $6.6 million in 2002.

From that peak, the stable still has fared very well, with earnings exceeding $3.6 million in 2003 and $3.4 million in 2004.

McPeek's longtime assistant, Helen Pitts, said McPeek has told her she will be retaining a significant number of horses that currently run under his name.

"I couldn't ask for a better opportunity," Pitts said.