Updated on 09/16/2011 7:51AM

Repent might try Dubai

Email
Harold Roth/Horsephotos
Repent was a 2 1/4-length winner on Sunday of the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Ken McPeek floated an unprecedented scenario on Monday, saying he was "seriously considering" sending Repent to Dubai for next month's United Arab Emirates Derby.

Both Repent and Harlan's Holiday are coming off excellent races over the weekend, and McPeek wants to keep them apart as long as possible.

Repent was a 2 1/4-length winner on Sunday of the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds. He ran a Beyer Speed Figure of 102. His stablemate, Harlan's Holiday, lost narrowly to Booklet in Saturday's Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park, with both Booklet and Harlan's Holiday getting Beyer figures of 103.

Repent salvaged the weekend for McPeek, who was bitterly disappointed after Harlan's Holiday lost the Fountain of Youth. Harlan's Holiday is scheduled to meet Booklet for the third straight time in the Florida Derby on March 16, but Repent's plans are less certain.

"I'm looking at three races - the Louisiana Derby, or, if he needs more time, the Spiral Stakes or the Derby in Dubai," McPeek said Monday morning, just before his connecting flight was to leave Orlando for Ft. Lauderdale. "I know it would be unprecedented to go to Dubai, but if any horse can do it, he can."

The Louisiana Derby is at Fair Grounds on March 10. The Spiral Stakes is at Turfway Park on March 23. The UAE Derby also is on March 23, and while traveling halfway around the world for a Kentucky Derby prep would be a first, McPeek cited the race's $2 million purse, as well as the distance, as reasons for it to be at least considered.

"The race is a mile and a quarter this year," McPeek said of the UAE Derby, which had been 1 1/8 miles previously, "The track has one of the longest stretches in the world."

The stretch-running Repent had to rally wide in the Risen Star, then closed furiously while drifting to his left through the stretch. He never changed leads in the stretch, but never came close to interfering with any of his rivals.

"All his career he's been a little sloppy with his leads," McPeek said. "I'd like to see him switch. Alydar did the same thing. It's nothing physical. He ran most of the race on his left lead. He had to be getting a little tired.

"He got hung a little wide, but he got the job done. The trip could have been smoother, but he's such a good horse, he could overcome it. He was fed Sunday night at 8, and he had cleaned up his feed by 9, which is a seriously good thing. I'm obsessive about that."

Repent was scheduled to be flown from New Orleans back to Florida on Tuesday.

Both Repent and Harlan's Holiday were ridden by Tony D'Amico, with whom McPeek has shown great loyalty so far. Jockeys' agents representing just about every big name rider in the country have made sure McPeek knows they are available.

"I'm not making any changes for now," McPeek said, though he acknowledged that at the least, should both continue to progress toward the Kentucky Derby, eventually D'Amico "will end up losing one or the other."

"I'm not sure which yet. That's all a ways down the road," McPeek said.

The two horses who finished immediately behind Repent - Bob's Image and Easyfromthegitgo - emerged from the race in good condition and will be pointed to the Louisiana Derby, their trainers said Monday. Fourth-place finisher French Assault also is possible for that race, though trainer Keith Desormeaux said he would look elsewhere if Repent shows up.

At Gulfstream Park, trainer John Ward Jr. said that Booklet came out of his victory in the Fountain of Youth in good order and would move on for Round 3 in his battle with Harlan's Holiday in the Florida Derby. Blue Burner, who was third in the Fountain of Youth, also is expected to return in the Florida Derby for trainer Bill Mott.

However, the other runners in the Fountain of Youth are heading elsewhere. Political Attack, who was fourth, will go back to the turf, "where he's more effective," trainer John Hennig said. Speed Hunter may return to sprints, or easier stakes, trainer Elliott Walden said. Stephentown "had no excuses" for his sixth-place finish, according to trainer Tony Reinstedler, who said he would probably "take a step back" for Stephentown's next start.

Grey Beard, who was seventh, will run next in an allowance race, or the March 7 Tampa Bay Derby, trainer Graham Motion said. Maybry's Boy, who was last in the field of eight, failed miserably in his first try around two turns, which trainer Shug McGaughey had instinctively feared.

McGaughey has brought D'Coach down from New York for the Florida Derby. Also joining the potential Florida Derby line-up is High Star, who was a narrow loser in a second-level allowance race on Saturday at Gulfstream.

- additional reporting by Marcus Hersh