Updated on 09/16/2011 7:16AM

Regrets, I've had a few


Each day through the Kentucky Derby, trainer Ken McPeek will share his thoughts with Marty McGee of Daily Racing Form in his Derby Diary. McPeek, 39, is the trainer of Harlan's Holiday, the race favorite.

This game isn't all glory. Like anybody, I've had a number of frustrations and disappointments since I started training in 1985. Probably the worst time of my career came when one of my clients went bankrupt in 1989. Basically, he couldn't pay his bills, couldn't pay me, and had about 15 head of horses. One day he said, "Get what you can for them - and good luck."

He had a bunch of average-to-bad horses, and I couldn't sell them around Kentucky. I ended up going to New Orleans that winter. By the time I came home, I'd sold all but one of them and had kind of dug myself out of a hole. But there I was, with one "pay" horse, basically out of the business. Fortunately, that's when Ray Cottrell called me, and that ended up being a big break.

Another tough time was when Mean Doris Jean, a $5,000 claimer I had for Ray, broke down and died at The Meadowlands in Sept. 1993. A major controversy followed, with the New Jersey Racing Commission suspending me for a whole year. I appealed and got a stay, but the legal process that followed dragged on for years. The case finally ended up getting dismissed in 1997. I'm kind of glad the whole thing happened, because it made me lose my desire to be part of the claiming game, which is a really tough racket. I eventually moved into younger horses, and that led me to where I am now a little quicker, I think.

Losing the Blue Grass Stakes in 1995 with Tejano Run was a real big disappointment. So was losing the Preakness that year, although he did have an excuse because he came out of the race with an ankle chip. Having Repent come off the Derby trail last month was hard, too, because I think he would have been really tough Saturday. That was a tough phone call to make to Jerry Bach to tell him we were out of the Derby, but at least I still have Harlan's Holiday for the Derby and we both have Take Charge Lady for the Oaks.