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Kathmanblu a pleasant surprise for McPeek

  • Kathmanblu keeps improving, according to trainer Ken McPeek (Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography)

KATHMANBLU (Bluegrass Cat) arrived at Keeneland on Wednesday afternoon from Florida, four days after turning in a bullet work at Gulfstream Park in preparation for Saturday's $400,000 Ashland (G1). A victory in the 1 1/16-mile stakes on Keeneland's Polytrack would give the filly her first Grade 1 score in front of a hometown crowd for her connections, a key factor in the decision to run her in the race.

Winner of the Jessamine on Keeneland's turf course last October, Kathmanblu was bred in Kentucky by the Dobozi family's Five D Thoroughbreds, which races her in partnership with Evan Trommer's Wind River Stables. The filly enters the Ashland off three consecutive stakes wins, most recently the Rachel Alexandra (G3) at Fair Grounds in February.

"She's been special," said trainer Ken McPeek about Kathmanblu, who has raced at six racetracks and has earned $470,731. "She just keeps getting better and better and better. She's easy to handle and a lot of fun."

Victory in the Ashland would give Kathmanblu a stakes win on an all-weather surface to add to her stakes wins on turf and dirt.

"It's just a testament to her talent," McPeek said about the filly's versatility. "I do think a good horse runs on about anything, and she's a good horse."

McPeek said Kathmanblu's talent as a youngster was "far from obvious."

"She didn't show much in her first race," he said. "Even in her workouts, she's just kinda done enough to get there, but she's always done everything right.

"She was a bit of a plain wrapper. She didn't scream at you: wow, big strapping filly or anything special. She's workmanlike, and I think that's really more important."

McPeek, the leading trainer during Keeneland's 2009 and 2010 fall meetings, won the 2002 Ashland with Take Charge Lady, who won a record four stakes at Keeneland from 2001-2003. He has won 20 stakes at the track, tying him with Shug McGaughey for sixth place on the list of Keeneland's all-time leading trainers by stakes wins.

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