10/07/2001 11:00PM

Track plays fair during opening weekend


LEXINGTON, Ky. - The main-track speed bias that many handicappers have come to expect at the Keeneland fall meet never reared its head opening weekend.

For every wire-to-wire winner such as Siphonic or Miss Linda, there was at least one pace-stalking or deep-closing winner such as Mountain Melody or Bet On Sunshine.

From 20 races on the dirt, nine were won by speed horses (first or second at all calls); five by stalkers; and six by closers from mid-pack or beyond.

Better yet, no major injuries or breakdowns resulted during the 27 combined races on dirt and turf.

Keeneland president Nick Nicholson and track superintendent Mike Young, acutely aware of criticism the track had received in past meets, were closely monitoring the situation throughout the opening three-day weekend.

"Obviously, safety is always our absolute top priority," said Nicholson. "Beyond that, we have done everything we possibly can to make this an unbiased racetrack. I'm a huge fan of Mike Young's. No one sweats the condition of the track more than him."

Jenna McPeek angle revealed

A tip-off that trainer Ken McPeek may win a race: He and his wife, Sue, do not bring their one-year-old daughter, Jenna, with them to the track.

Even though Jenna has been with them "about 20 times," said Ken McPeek, she has never had the opportunity to be in a winner's picture. "It's bizarre, because I've won at least 60 races since she was born [Oct. 9, 2000]," he said.

The pattern remained the same last weekend. Jenna stayed home Friday, when McPeek won the Alcibiades with Take Charge Lady. On Saturday, she was on hand for the Breeders' Futurity, but the McPeek-trained Harlan's Holiday ran second.

No word yet on Jenna's plans for the World Thoroughbred Championships, at which McPeek will have Take Charge Lady in the Juvenile Fillies. For the Juvenile, McPeek said Repent is "probable" and Harlan's Holiday "a maybe."

Overbrook donates Storm Cat season

Coinciding with its initial sponsorship of the Spinster Stakes, Overbrook Farm on Sunday announced that it will donate a 2002 season to the farm's world-renown sire, Storm Cat, with proceeds going to the American Red Cross.

A season to Storm Cat is worth about $500,000. The season will be sold at the conclusion of Keeneland's annual breeding-stock sale Nov. 5. The donation is being made to assist the Red Cross in its efforts with the victims and families of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

* North East Bound, who put up a fight when second to War Chant in the BC Mile last year, again lacked his old grit when fading badly Sunday in the Shadwell Mile.

Apparently, he will not return to the Breeders' Cup, having lost his last five starts. "He just couldn't handle that course," jockey Jose Velez Jr. said. "It's disappointing."

Knight goes solo

Barry Knight, who served two long stints as an assistant trainer under D. Wayne Lukas, is now living in Lexington, where he plans to open a public stable.

Knight, 41, was Lukas's assistant at Delaware Park this summer, but that string was disbanded in August. Knight said he may have horses for Padua Stables and Brereton Jones when he starts training at the nearby Kentucky Training Center.

Big field in Queen Elizabeth II

Racing secretary Howard Battle said he is expecting a full field of 10 for the highlight of the coming weekend, the Grade 1, $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup on Saturday.

The QEII is an invitation-only, 1 1/8-mile turf race for 3-year-old fillies. Among the probables are Voodoo Dancer, Golden Apple, Snow Dance, Affluent, Lend a Hand, and Casual Feat.

Kamsack out of Breeders' Cup

Kamsack, who was favored in Saturday's Breeders' Futurity after his runner-up finish behind Officer in the Del Mar Futurity, ran down badly and will miss the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, trainer Christopher Paasch said Monday.

"I had heard all the horror stories about running down at Keeneland, so I ran him in bandages, and he still ran down, worse than I had ever seen," Paasch said. "I'm still dragging. It broke my heart to see him come back like that."

- additional reporting by Jay Privman