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McPeek gives nod for Rattle N Roll to run in the Indiana Derby

Trainer Ken McPeek’s plan all along for Lucky Seven Stable’s 3-year-old colt Rattle N Roll was to run in either Saturday’s $300,000 Grade 3 Indiana Derby or the $250,000 Iowa Derby. He just had an unscheduled stop in between.

Rattle N Roll, the winner of Keeneland’s Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity last fall, comes into the 1 1/16-mile Indiana Derby at Horseshoe Indianapolis off a two-length victory in the $200,000 American Derby at Churchill Downs just last Saturday.

After the American Derby, McPeek raised the possibility of running back in the Indiana Derby or the Iowa Derby, whose field had been drawn that morning. While he wanted to see how Rattle N Roll bounced out of the race, McPeek on Wednesday declared it all systems go to run in the Indiana Derby, for which Rattle N Roll is the 5-2 favorite in the field of 10.

Regular rider Brian Hernandez Jr. has the mount.

“He’s going to Indiana,” McPeek said.



As a turf race, McPeek had no interest in the American Derby for Rattle N Roll. But, the afternoon before entries were taken, Churchill Downs announced its July 2 grass stakes would be run on dirt in order to give its new turf course’s root system more time to mature.

Mike Mackin, who heads his family’s Lucky Seven Stable, heard the news and wasted no time calling McPeek.

“Kenny was planning on breezing him Saturday,” Mackin said. “I said, ‘Look, what if we just run him on Saturday? It’s here. He likes the track. If he’s ready, since they’re off the turf, why not?’”

Echoed McPeek: “We didn’t breeze him last weekend. We chose to run him instead of work him. We weren’t intending on running in the American Derby because it was a turf race. When it came off, Mike Mackin suggested slipping him in there. We’re basically using the American Derby as a workout for Indiana.

“It looks like it’s another good spot for him. We want to keep him in the Midwest. I realize it’s unconventional, but I’ve always been looked at as unconventional so I’m OK with that.”

Even has he prepared to run Rattle N Roll in the American Derby, McPeek was thinking ahead to this Saturday. He entered him in the Iowa Derby last Saturday morning before running that afternoon.

“We wanted to see how it unfolded out there and wanted to see what the Indiana and Iowa races looked like,” he said. “This is an easier ship, especially in this heat.”

McPeek noted that he won Churchill Downs’ 1 1/2-mile Louisville Handicap with Vettori Kin six days after the Brazilian-bred horse finished third in an allowance race.

“Woody Stephens won the Belmont back on five days,” he said, referencing the late Hall of Fame trainer winning the 1982 Belmont Stakes with Conquistador Cielo five days after taking the Metropolitan Mile. “In other eras, it was no big deal. It seems like everyone wants to put four to six weeks in between races now. When horses are doing well, I’ve never been scared to run ‘em. And he’s doing exceptionally well. I’ve always been one where I’d rather run them than work them.”

McPeek said a big consideration was “after he raced, how quickly he ate up. He knocked it out that night. He’s been killing the feed tub. I think that’s the ultimate sign how well a horse is doing, how well they’re eating. The faster they eat, the faster they run.”

Rattle N Roll started off his 3-year-old season with a pair of sixth-place finishes sandwiched around a fourth in three major Kentucky Derby preps. He was entered in the Kentucky Derby but did not draw in the race, which was famously won by another late-running “also-eligible” who got in at the last minute in 80-1 Rich Strike. In his three starts since, Rattle N Roll finished second in a tough allowance race and third in Churchill Downs’ Grade 3 Matt Winn before taking the American Derby as the favorite.

“It was good to finally see him run well,” Mackin said. “Not that he hadn’t run well in the others. It’s just the races didn’t set up all that well for him.

“… It was a good race Saturday. But he’s eating up and bounced back and doing well. It’s a short van ride, so we’re taking a shot. When Rattle N Roll won the Breeders’ Futurity, he had broken his maiden just two weeks earlier. He’s shown he can bounce out of a race well and run on a short time in between races. There really aren’t a whole lot of options for him until mid-August or so.”

McPeek also is wheeling back the duo of Runaway Wife and Silverleaf in just over a week each in the 1 1/16-mile Indiana Oaks. Runaway Wife comes back eight days after finishing a close second in a Churchill allowance race while Silverleaf resumes racing nine days after rolling to a nine-length maiden victory.