(Mayor Linda Gorton recognizes Kenny McPeek, who trained the winners of the 2024 Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby, during a presentation July 2, 2024.
Photo by Amy Wallot & Courtesy of the City of Lexington) 

(Real Men Violin / Photo by Jennie Rees)

(Band of Gold / Coady Media)

From the Horseshoe Indianapolis Media Team / Jennie Rees:

Could Real Men Violin, Band of Gold make it Kenny McPeek Day at Horseshoe Indianapolis?

SHELBYVILLE, Ind. (Wednesday, July 3, 2024) — Mayor Linda Gorton declared Tuesday as Kenny McPeek Day in Lexington, Ky., where the veteran horse trainer grew up and graduated from Tates Creek High School and the University of Kentucky.

That’s the kind of thing that happens when you become the first trainer since 1952 to win the Kentucky Derby (Mystik Dan) and Kentucky Oaks (Thorpedo Anna) in the same year. Nine weeks later, the 61-year-old trainer is hoping this Saturday proves another form of Kenny McPeek day at Horseshoe Indianapolis as he sends out stakes-winning Band of Gold in the $200,000 Indiana Oaks and Real Men Violin in the $300,000 Indiana Derby. Both are Grade 3 races at 1 1/16 miles.

“That was a little surreal, growing up there and everything,” McPeek, who now lives in Louisville but has a farm in Lexington, said of Mayor Gorton’s proclamation. “Like I told them, I can drive Lexington blind-folded, although you wouldn’t want to see it happen. It was pretty neat. But we’re excited about this weekend. We’ve got some nice horses going up and we know they’re doing well.

“Real Men Violin, I know that’s a little deeper water than maybe he’s experienced, but this is a 3-year-old colt. We’re going to give him one more chance in stakes company. Of course, he’s knocked on the door in stakes this year and last year. Band of Gold is a stakes-winner. She comes back and is probably doing the best she’s ever done. I’m excited about giving her a shot there. And then we’ve got the Indiana-bred Under the Palms, who I think they made the morning line favorite up there (in the $100,000 Ellen’s Lucky Star). Should be fun.”

McPeek won last year’s Indiana Oaks with Defining Purpose but is pursuing his first Indiana Derby victory. “Run well in it several times, but never won it,” he said.

In his last two starts, Real Men Violin was second in the Illinois Derby and third in the Texas Derby. He’s 8-1 in the adjusted Indiana Derby morning line, with Santa Anita Derby winner Stronghold the 2-1 favorite, Texas Derby winner E J Won the Cup 5-2 and Dragoon Guard 7-2 in the field of eight 3-year-olds, though Sir Greylind is expected to scratch.

Band of Gold is the 3-1 second choice in the Indiana Oaks behind 7-5 favorite Impel, with Neon Icon 7-2 in the field of eight 3-year-old fillies.

“She’s easier than him,” McPeek said when asked the key to those horses. “I do think she’s a bit of a set-up filly; there needs to be pace in the race that allows her a chance to run them down. If they set a modest pace, she has a hard time closing into that. If they go a little bit quicker earlier, or they don’t pay attention she’ll come running late. That’s what happened when she won the Martha Washington this past winter. When it doesn’t set up for her, her chances are a little compromised.

“Real Man Violin goes out there and tries hard every time. He’s still got the (entry level allowance) condition left, and I could be more conservative in a race like that. But he’s a lovely horse. It’s a little bit of an uphill battle for him, but he deserves a shot.”

McPeek’s go-to rider Brian Hernandez, who became the first jockey since Calvin Borel in 2009 to win the Kentucky Oaks and Derby in the same year, will be aboard the trainer’s Indy runners Saturday. Having achieved the holy grail in horse racing, neither man is taking Saturday’s races for granted.

“All these are great races to be involved in,” McPeek said. “We’re lucky we’ve got a lot of young horses every year and they put us in this position. I’ve always enjoyed going up there. I think I ran in the first Indiana Derby ever.”

His memory is correct: The McPeek-trained Grecian God finished fourth in the $100,000 Indiana Derby in 1995 at Hoosier Park, which now stages strictly harness racing.

Hernandez is looking for a third Indiana Derby and his first since 2012 and his fourth Indiana Oaks, teaming with McPeek last year on Defining Purpose.

The 22nd season of live Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing extends through Thursday, Nov. 14. Racing is held Monday through Thursday at 2:10 p.m. Indiana’s featured event, the Grade 3 $300,000 Indiana Derby is Saturday, July 6 with a first post time of 12 p.m. For more information on live racing at Horseshoe Indianapolis, visit www.caesars.com/horseshoe-indianapolis/racing or find the track on Social Media @HSIndyRacing.