Horse Racing

Kenny McPeek – Kentucky Derby 2024 Trainer Profile

FanDuel Staff
FanDuel Staff
Kenny McPeek – Kentucky Derby 2024 Trainer Profile

Trainer Kenny McPeek ran his first horses in 1985 and has been a presence at the top levels of horse racing for decades. In addition to training horses, he frequently does bloodstock work at sales, and also owns and operates Magdalena Farm in Kentucky.

McPeek’s 11 career Grade 1 winners include top racemare and broodmare Take Charge Lady, Preakness winner Swiss Skydiver, Travers Stakes winner Golden Ticket, and Florida Derby-winning sire Harlan’s Holiday. Though McPeek does not have a Breeders’ Cup winner yet, he has come close on many occasions: he has had seven second-place finishers and ten third-place runners at the festival.

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Kentucky Derby Record

Kenny McPeek has started nine horses in the Kentucky Derby. His best result came with his first runner all the way back in 1995, Tejano Run, who earned a runner-up finish behind Thunder Gulch. His most recent Kentucky Derby runner came last year, when Sun Thunder finished 11th in Churchill Downs’ signature race.

The Kentucky Derby is the only Triple Crown race that McPeek has yet to win. He has run seven horses in the Preakness, winning once: his star filly Swiss Skydiver beat the boys in 2020 after finishing second in the Kentucky Oaks (G1). Other money finishers in the Preakness include Senior Investment (2017, third) and Creative Minister (2022, third). He has also run seven horses in the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park. His win came in 2002 when colossal long shot Sarava spoiled War Emblem’s Triple Crown bid. He has had one other Belmont runner hit the board: Atigun was third in 2012.

Mystik Dan

Mystik Dan is a colt by two-time Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Goldencents out of the winning Colonel John mare Ma’am. He was bred by Lance Gasaway, 4G Racing, and Daniel Hamby; Gasaway and 4G Racing own him in partnership with Valley View Farm. Brian Hernandez, Jr., who often rides major horses for McPeek, is Mystik Dan’s regular rider.

Two-Year-Old Season

Mystik Dan debuted in a maiden dirt sprint at Keeneland in October, setting the pace before being outfinished and having to settle for second. Sent off at odds-on next out, he broke his maiden impressively at Churchill Downs in November, battling on the pace and opening up to win by 7 ¾ lengths. The final start of his juvenile season came in an allowance race at Churchill Downs later the same month. Mystik Dan was favored, but he stalked the pace and weakened to fifth, eight lengths behind winner Who Dey.

Three-Year-Old Season

All three of Mystik Dan’s sophomore starts so far have come in Kentucky Derby points races at Oaklawn Park. In the Smarty Jones on New Year’s Day, Mystik Dan broke outward, prompted the pace, but flattened out in the lane to finish fifth, 3 ¼ behind Catching Freedom—the horse who went on to win the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds. Mystik Dan found his best next out in a muddy edition of the Southwest (G3), chasing midfield, rallying, and opening up to win by eight lengths over the consistent Just Steel.

Mystik Dan finished his Kentucky Derby preparation in the Arkansas Derby (G1) on March 30. Sent off the fourth betting choice, he reprised a similar running style as he showed in the Southwest. However, he proved no match in the lane, crossing the wire third. Mystik Dan was 6 ½ lengths behind the Kentucky Derby-ineligible favorite Muth, with Just Steel a clear second for D. Wayne Lukas.

Mystik Dan intrigues the most if Kentucky Derby day comes up rainy. His pace versatility appeals and a reprise of his Southwest Stakes effort makes him interesting in the Kentucky Derby, but he still has to prove he can find similarly good form over a fast track.

Common Defense

A colt by Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Karakontie out of the Street Cry mare Allusion, Common Defense does not have enough qualifying points for a guaranteed spot at Churchill Downs. He needs two defections to make his way into the main field for the Kentucky Derby. A $9,000 RNA as a weanling, the colt is owned by Tony Holmes and Norevale Farm, two of his co-breeders, along with David A. Bernsen and Michael Holmes. Brian Hernandez, Jr. has ridden him his last two starts, though a rider has not yet been named on him for if he draws into the field.

Two-Year-Old Season

Common Defense debuted at two turns in a maiden race in December at Oaklawn. The only first-time starter in the race, he tracked in range, chased willingly, and finished second behind odds-on favorite Lat Long, his stablemate.

Three-Year-Old Season

Common Defense returned in January in a maiden special weight dirt mile. Sent off the favorite in his second career start, he dealt well with a relatively-inside post in a big field, tracking in range and running on well to win by 3 ½ lengths.

Beginning with his third career start, Common Defense has raced exclusively in Kentucky Derby points races. In the Southwest, he made an early move but flattened out badly to finish fifth, 17 ¼ behind his impressive stablemate Mystik Dan. Dismissed at 27-1 in the Rebel (G2) on February 24, he made better account over the dry footing, always racing in range and chasing on to finish second, two lengths behind odds-on favorite Timberlake.

Common Defense went to Fair Grounds to take his final prep in the Louisiana Derby (G2). He changed his running style a bit, pressuring the pace set by Track Phantom, before flattening to finish fifth, four lengths behind Catching Freedom. If he draws in, he will face the winner again, as well as Honor Marie and Track Phantom. Third-place Tuscan Gold is also waiting for a spot at Churchill Downs, though he needs eight defections to make it in.

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