If there was one thing trainer Kenny McPeek was confident about heading into the $500,000 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland on Oct. 9, it was that he was coming into the race with a youngster who had absorbed some valuable lessons.
Sure enough, when the rubber hit the road in the 1 1/16-miles test, Lucky Seven Stable’s Rattle N Roll looked every bit the professional when he made a sweeping move on the far turn and then rocketed by the field at the head of the stretch to draw off for a 4¼-length victory over a field of a dozen challengers.
With four starts already under his belt including a troubled incident at Saratoga, Rattle N Roll already has some beyond-his-years seasoning. After running third to eventual Grade 1 winner Gunite in his debut at Churchill Downs on June 26, the son of Connect bolted and was pulled up in his second career outing at Saratoga on Aug. 26.
McPeek suspects the colt got hit the eye with an object that day as that was the only issue they could find the aftermath. When Rattle N Roll remerged Sept. 23 at Churchill, the leggy chestnut recovered after being bumped hard at the start to break his maiden going 1 1/16-miles.
“You can’t ever be too confident in a 13-horse field….but this is a horse who has really learned his lessons,” said McPeek, who won the Breeders’ Futurity for the third time. “The race in Saratoga was a weird one. His left eye was closed for two days after…but he’s never done anything wrong before or since.
“He understands how to sit behind horses and finish. We don’t win first time out so much, but when they go longer and they learn how to sit behind horses and finish, we’re in good shape.”
Favored Classic Causeway was sent hard out of the gate from the outside No. 13 post and led the field through fractions of :22.81, :46.74 and 1:11.90 with Stellar Tap and Mr. Bouma in closest pursuit early on.
“I told my wife before the race, if (Classic Causeway) goes, we’ve got a real chance because I thought that horse needed to learn how to run,” McPeek said. “My horse knew how to run.”
On the far turn, jockey Brian Hernandez, Jr. angled Rattle N Roll to the outside and began picking off horses with a move that put him on even terms with Classic Causeway and Stellar Tap turning for home. With that momentum, Rattle N Roll quickly opened up and never was threatened in the run to the finish line.
“All the credit really goes to the horse, being only his fourth start, to be able to sit back there and read the race and let it develop in front of him,” Hernandez said. “When I got him outside, he showed what a good horse he is. He engulfed those horses pretty easily, and turning for home he switched leads. He knows his job and he just kind of went on about it.”
Rattle N Roll covered the distance in 1:43.78 over a track rated fast. Double Thunder rallied from far back under Paco Lopez to get second with Classic Causeway finishing another half-length back in third.
By virtue of the victory, Rattle N Roll earned a fees-paid berth into the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance to be run Nov. 5 at Del Mar. However, McPeek said he may bypass the Breeders’ Cup and await the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs instead.
“I’m not set in the stone that I want to go. I might wait until the Kentucky Jockey Club,” McPeek said. “We’ll see. The configuration of Del Mar is different, there are a couple things I want to see but it might be a season where I opt out (of the Juvenile). I know we can win the Kentucky Jockey Club, which is a great set up for next spring.”