Curlin Colt Unleashes ‘Fury-ous’ Rally For McPeek In Lexington Stakes

Far back early under Brian Hernandez Jr., King Fury benefited from a fast early pace and uncorked a powerful move on the turn to win the Grade 3, $200,000 Stonestreet Lexington Stakes on a very sloppy racetrack at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky., on Saturday afternoon.

Trained by Kenny McPeek for the partnership of Fern Circle Stables and Three Chimneys Farm LLC, King Fury – a 3-year-old colt by Curlin bred in Kentucky by Heider Family Stables LLC – completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.50 and paid $38.40 as the third longest price in the field of nine 3-year-olds competing for 34 points in the final day of Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifying races of 2021. The top four finishers earned 20-8-4-2 points.

Updated Kentucky Derby Leaderboard

Unbridled Honor finished second at 20-1 odds, beaten 2 3/4 lengths, with 8-1 shot Starrinmydreams another 2 1/4 lengths back in third and 2-1 favorite Proxy finishing fourth.

Noble Reflection, stretching out to 1 1/16 miles after a six-furlong maiden win at Oaklawn last out for Richard Baltas, shot to the lead under Javier Castellano and set fractions of :22.39, :45.87 and 1:11.30 for the first six furlongs. Unbeaten Swiftsure, 2-for-2 sprinting for Steve Asmussen, and highly regarded Bob Baffert-trained Bezos applied pressure on the front-runner.

Hernandez allowed King Fury to settle near the back early, then began picking off horses approaching the far turn, finding room along the rail as the field made its way around the final turn. The front-runners began to pay the price for the early fractions and King Fury reeled them all in quickly, opening a commanding lead after a mile in 1:37.12 and easily holding off the late rally by Unbridled Honor and Julien Leparoux.

A $950,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling purchase, King Fury is out of the Flatter mare, Taris. The Lexington Stakes was his third win from six starts and first in a stakes. He had not raced since a fifth-place finish after setting  the pace with blinkers on in the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs on Nov. 28. After training at Gulfstream Park this winter, McPeek removed the blinkers for the Lexington.

Post-race quotes

Brian Hernandez Jr. (winning rider of King Fury)
“They were going fast, and my horse, he actually jumped away from there (the gate) really, really good. Then going around the turn, he went to hopping up and down from the dirt. Once he got down to the fence and midway down the backside, he went to traveling so good. I got to the five-eighths pole and went ‘Man, they’re in trouble from this point’ because he was just doing it the right way and traveling and taking us the whole way. He was so powerful today that I knew I would just be able to pick my way through like we did. He was just there for me the whole way.”

Kenny McPeek (winning trainer)
“This has always been a really, really good horse. We were a little aggressive with him last fall. I’m going to give a big tip of the hat to the (co-owner) Three Chimneys team. They said, ‘Hey, send him to us for a little while. Let’s give him a little break’. He needed it. We tested him at the highest levels and he came back bigger and stronger.”

“I’m really proud of everybody involved. I’ve got a great team of people that help me. I channeled a little Alice Chandler today, because what a fantastic woman she’s been for horse racing. It’s an awesome win for (co-owner) Paul Fireman and his family. I wish he was here – I think he’s playing golf in the Dominican (Republic) right now. It’s a good day.”

On King Fury’s next race
“We’ll check him after this race. I think he’s going to handle a mile and a quarter without any trouble. Whether he gets in (the Kentucky Derby-G1), it’s out of our control. We’ll see how he bounces out. We think a mile a quarter would be great. We’ll look at the opposition. The Preakness (G1) is a great race too. It could be either-or, but it would definitely one or the other.”

Dallas Stewart (trainer and co-owner of third-place finisher Starrininmydreams)
“He’s a really nice horse. He showed his quality this afternoon. It was a really nice effort. We’ll get him back to Louisville and plan for the next one.”

John Velazquez (rider of fourth-place finisher Proxy)
“He was not loving this (sloppy track), that is for sure. I knew that in the first turn. He kept running at the end because he is a distance horse and he is supposed to pass horses.”

Mike Stidham (trainer of Proxy)
“I knew when Johnny had to (urge) him right away on the first turn that he looked like he was not handling the sloppy track. We had in the back of our minds to try him on the turf, and now that is something we will look at. Maybe not immediately but in the near future.”

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