04/20/2006 11:00PM

Peacock had high hopes for Derek from day one

Cecil Peacock (right) bought Brother Derek and turned him over to trainer Dan Hendricks.

VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Lately, it seems like any conversation with Cecil Peacock begins and ends with a laugh. And why not? Peacock owns Brother Derek, and he is having the time of his life.

"It's been quite a ride," he said from his home in Calgary, Alberta. "Brother Derek just keeps getting better and better. Who knows when he'll reach his peak. Maybe he already has. It doesn't seem like it, though. Hopefully he'll reach it on May 6."

Peacock turned 79 on April 9, the day after Brother Derek won the Santa Anita Derby and stamped himself as one of the favorites for the Kentucky Derby.

"That was a pretty nice birthday present," he said.

Peacock, who made his fortune in the oil industry, paid $275,000 for Brother Derek at the Barretts selected 2-year-olds in training sale last March. Not bad for someone who made $5 a month in his first job as a janitor.

"I was just a kid, and remember, it was the 1930's," he said. "I didn't know anyone that had any money back then."

He was raised on a farm in Alliance, Alberta, and was a farmer himself before he made a bold move and bought his first oil well in 1971.

"I just had a good feeling about the oil business," he said. "It wasn't very easy to get started, though. The bank was against it, and I had to tell a few stories in order to get the loan for the well. I just liked the idea that when I went to bed, the wells kept working and were making me money while I was sleeping. At the time there was just a few wells in the area, but there are a lot more now."

He expanded and formed a successful oil production company, Peacock Energy Inc., which he decided to sell in 2002, although he is still involved in partnerships in the oil industry.

It wasn't long after Peacock bought his first oil well that got into horse racing. He had limited success at first, mostly racing cheap claimers in Alberta.

"I was looking for a diamond in the rough back then," he said.

In 1994, he sent a few horses to trainer Lance Giesbrecht, who was the leading trainer at Hastings in Vancouver. More important to Peacock was the fact that Giesbrecht was dating his daughter Kim. They eventually married.

With the move to Hastings, Peacock's fortunes in horse racing took a turn for the better.

In 1997 he won the British Columbia Derby with Bobbin for Stars. Peacock also raced B.C. older champion Liberty Road, who earned more than $500,000. Part of Liberty Road's earnings came in the form of a $50,000 bonus for points earned in the 1996 Western Canada Derby Series, which is now defunct. The series consisted of four races in Manitoba, Alberta, and B.C.

"I'll never forget that," said Peacock. "At the time, oil prices were depressed, and it wasn't gushing in like it is now. The $50,000 really came in handy."

A lot of his newfound success in racing was due to his willingness to up the ante when it came to buying horses.

Peacock bought Liberty Road as a 3-year-old for six figures, and paid $82,000 for Bobbin for Stars at a 2-year-olds in training sale in British Columbia.

Peacock also started racing in California, and one of the horses he bought was Don'tsellmeshort, a full brother to Brother Derek. Don'tsellmeshort won three stakes as a 2-year-old in 2003 and earned over $400,000. Both Don'tsellmeshort and Brother Derek are trained by Dan Hendricks.

"One of the reasons I was attracted to Brother Derek was because of the success I had with Don'tsellmeshort," said Peacock. "And when I went to check out Brother Derek in the sale last year, I was completely impressed with his looks and conformation. I was looking at the sales catalog the other day and I had written on his page in all capital letters - PERFECT. I was smiling all over when I bought him."

Brother Derek will likely have to run a perfect race to win the Kentucky Derby. Whatever happens, it won't faze Peacock, Giesbrecht said.

"One of the best things about training for Cecil is that he can take the good with the bad," said Giesbrecht. "He just really enjoys himself."

"I know it's going to be a tough race," said Peacock. "But even if he wins, it's going to be hard to top the feeling I had when Brother Derek beat Stevie Wonderboy in the San Rafael Stakes. It was the thrill of a lifetime."

It won't be Peacock's first trip to Churchill Downs. He went to the 1985 Derby as a fan, and he had some luck, betting "a few dollars" on the winner, Spend a Buck. If Brother Derek wins, he'll take home a lot more than a few dollars this time. And you can bet he'll be laughing all the way to the bank.