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McPeek thinking classics for Frac Daddy

Ken McPeek closely observed Skip Away with an admiring eye while training at Gulfstream Park during the mid and late 1990s, gaining a deep respect for trainer Sonny Hine's big gray champion.

So when a colt he had purchased at auction reminded him of Skip Away, he viewed the resemblance to the 1998 Horse of the Year as a decided positive. Three races into his racing career, Frac Daddy has done nothing but feed his trainer's enthusiasm and optimism about his future.

"I was around Skip Away when Sonny Hine had him, and this horse reminds me of him. He's out of a Skip Away mare. Physically, he looks like Skip Away, so that's kind of neat," McPeek said. "Having been around a few good horses in my time, I think this horse could be any kind."

Frac Daddy, whose gray coat and large frame help to remind his trainer of Skip Away, has demonstrated a lot of potential in his three starts thus far. The late-developing colt worked his way through traffic to finish second in his career debut at Belmont Park on October 4 before scoring in a two-turn 1 1/16-mile race at Churchill Downs by nearly 10 lengths on November 3.

"The most impressive was his first race," McPeek said. "It looked like he had every reason to lay down, but he kept fighting back to finish second, kind of weaving his way through traffic."

Three weeks later after winning, he made a sweeping move on the turn into the homestretch to take a narrow lead in deep stretch before multiple stakes-winner Uncaptured fought back to post a neck decision over the McPeek trainee in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill.

"The second race was just dominant. We knew he was good. I was a little concerned about how he'd handle Churchill. It was amazing how powerful he was," McPeek said. "In his third race I thought I could have trained him a little harder. He might have beaten the other horse. He got a little tired."

The performance was certainly strong enough for McPeek to expect big things from Frac Daddy.

"If he improves the way I expect him to, we've got a big chance to be in the middle of a lot of nice races," McPeek said.

Frac Daddy, a son of 2007 Florida Derby winner Scat Daddy, is expected to be very active at Gulfstream during the 2012-2013 meeting.

"I'd like to get one race into him before the (Grade 2) Fountain of Youth and then come back for the (Grade 1) Florida Derby (March 30)," McPeek said.

Frac Daddy has already turned out to be a bargain for Magic City Thoroughbred Partners and McPeek, who purchased him at the 2011 Keeneland September sale for $50,000.

"He was big strong horse with a great him and a lot of substance to him," he said.

McPeek is obviously hoping that Frac Daddy will perform well enough at Gulfstream to earn a stall in the starting gate for this year's Kentucky Derby.

"I think this horse has got a good a chance as any horse I've had in my career," he said.

McPeek-trained Tejano Run finished second behind Thunder Gulch in the 1995 Kentucky Derby.

"I made a mistake going to Fair Grounds that winter. If I had brought my horses here that winter instead of Fair Grounds, I think I would have won the Derby," said McPeek, whose training schedule for Tejano Run was compromised by weather. "It was one of those odd winters. It did nothing but rain down there. It was nasty."

Back in the Sunshine State, McPeek is hoping Frac Daddy's winter at Gulfstream Park will set him up for a winning effort at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.

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