07/29/2011 4:40PM

Saratoga: McPeek well-stocked for upcoming stakes


Trainer Ken McPeek’s stable is primed for a big week of stakes action here at Saratoga, beginning with Scotus’s attempt to join the elite of the 3-year-old division in Saturday’s Jim Dandy. McPeek will also be represented in Grade 1 events next weekend by Noble’s Promise in the Vanderbilt, Salty Strike in the Test, and perhaps Gautier in the Whitney. He’s also planning to run Dark Cove in Friday’s John’s Call overnight stakes with an eye on the Grade 1 Sword Dancer later in the session.

Noble’s Promise finished fifth in the 2010 Kentucky Derby but McPeek has restricted him to one-turn races this season with his main goal the Breeders’ Cup Sprint over his home course at Churchill Downs this fall. Noble’s Promise turned in the best race of his career when beating Atta Boy Roy and Capt. Candyman Can in the Grade 3 Aristides at Churchill Downs on June 4 before shipping to Calder, where he finished a close third in the Grade 2 Smile Sprint.

“He had no excuse in Florida other than it’s tough to ship in and win at Calder,” said McPeek. “He came out of the race fine and now should be good to take the next step.”

Salty Strike finished a tiring fourth after contesting the pace making her Grade 1 debut in the Mother Goose. She won the Dogwood at Churchill going a mile in her previous try.

“A mile and one-sixteenth was a little too far for her in the Mother Goose,” McPeek said. “She’s much better sprinting, but she’ll need to find another gear to win a Grade 1.”

McPeek said Thursday’s Birdstone overnight stakes is his first option for Gautier, who began his career with six straight one-sided wins in Peru before finishing third making his U.S. debut in the Golden Bear Stakes at Indiana Downs earlier this month.

“He’ll run in the Birdstone if it fills. If not we’ll go to the Whitney,” said McPeek. “I’m really excited about him and I think people are going to find he’s going to be pretty special.”

Mott gets his usual birthday present

Trainer Bill Mott kept the tradition alive of winning a race on his birthday when he sent out Reach a Decision ($26.20) to upset Friday’s second race under jockey Eddie Castro. Mott has now won at least one race on 13 of the last 18 racing cards held at Saratoga on his birthday dating back to 1992. The track was dark on his birthday twice during that span. Mott has won 18 races overall on his birthday since 1992.

“It’s like the lions eating the wildebeasts,” Mott said after the race. “It’s just part of nature’s plan.”

◗ Kindergarten Kid worked seven furlongs in a crisp 1:23 over a firm and fast Oklahoma turf course on Friday and will be pointed for the John’s Call at 1 5/8 miles, said trainer Barclay Tagg.