Trainer Kenny McPeek has come to race. Shipping in a quartet of horses for the Dubai World Cup, he will make history in becoming the first trainer from America to race as early as mid-January in Dubai. His four are made up of Argentine Group 1 winner Grecko, graded stakes-placed turf horse Harlan Strong, Grade 3 winner Senior Investment—second in the 2017 Preakness Stakes (G1)—and Honorable Treasure, who was second to Pegasus World Cup (G1) runner Audible in November's $200,000 Cherokee Run Stakes.
“This is unique in that the horses I'm sending are ideal for the (Dubai World Cup Carnival races),” McPeek said. “Champion Grecko is on schedule for UAE Derby and Harlan Strong and Senior Investment headed toward longer dirt and turf handicaps. Honorable Treasure is a nice six or seven furlong to a flat mile horse and should fit well in handicaps.”
McPeek has sent seasoned assistant trainer Otto Draper to Dubai with his quartet. Draper, on hand when the quartet cleared quarantine on Tuesday morning, was pleased with what he saw in their morning exercises—especially with Harlan Strong, who is already entered to run this Thursday in the $135,000 1 1/4-mile turf handicap for horses rated 95-105.
“I was very impressed with how Harlan Strong is doing,” Draper said. “He looked great going around there this morning. I think he'll be competitive and it looks like he's in a good spot. All four of these horses that Kenny brought over are horses who look like they should fit really well. I don't know just how tough the competition is going to be, but I'm sure they're not going to be pushovers.”
While Harlan Strong, who will be piloted by Dane O'Neill, is owned by Paul Fireman's Fern Circle Stables and McPeek's Magdalena Racing, Honorable Treasure runs under the banner of Harold Lerner and partners. The son of To Honor And Serve was a troubled third last out to highly regarded Copper Bullet in allowance company and chose to run in Thursday's $135,000 six-furlong handicap for horses rated 90-105 in lieu of the equivalent class over one mile.
“He's good at both (distances), but is actually best at seven-eighths,” Draper said. “The first time out here, we thought the (six furlongs) would be better for him because of that. You always have concerns when you ship in anywhere, but sometimes you can run (well) right off the truck and other times you don't.”
Draper also confirmed that Senior Investment will likely go in next Thursday's $135,000 1 1/4-mile handicap on dirt, while the $250,000 UAE 2000 Guineas (G3) and $2.5 million UAE Derby (G2) are squarely on Grecko's radar.
“There's a spot on the 24th of January for (Senior Investment) over (1 1/4 miles). I don't know what there will be for him afterward, but there will be a couple spots,” he said. “The plan is the UAE Derby if all goes well (for Grecko). He looks like he can fit with these horses. He's only started two times and won both starts in Argentina on a different kind of surface, but he looks like a very nice horse. He's not a big horse, but he's very compact and it's all about mechanics and he has great mechanics. We're looking forward to it.”
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