Daddys Lil Darling’s Epsom Adventure: Getting There

Abel Tasman edges Daddys Lil Darling in Kentucky Oaks.
Daddys Lil Darling (left) finishes a good second to Abel Tasman in the Longines Kentucky Oaks May 5 at Churchill Downs. Next up is the Epsom Oaks. Coady Photography
Epsom Downs Racecourse
No confusion about where you are! England’s famed Epsom Downs Racecourse, home to the original Derby and Oaks. Photo courtesy Kenny McPeek

Trainer Kenny McPeek and owner Nancy Polk must be hoping that Kentucky Oaks runner-up Daddys Lil Darling is getting any rough start out of the way before she actually races in the June 2 Investec Oaks at historic Epsom Downs Racecourse. Daddys Lil Darling will be the first Kentucky Oaks horse to run in the world’s original Oaks.

Speaking Wednesday from England, McPeek said Daddys Lil Darling’s flight on a cargo plane from Huntsville, Ala., to Britain that had been scheduled for Monday was delayed two days but that she was well-cared for at a nearby farm and was to arrive at Epsom around midnight. Huntsville is a popular outbound location for horses being flown overseas by the international racehorse transport company IRT.

McPeek will be sharing his thoughts, along with photos and videos from Epsom, with TurfTalk360.com.

“Fortunately she’s at a farm in Alabama,” he said. “But this is the same place that Wesley Ward and everybody else who goes to London takes their horses. She’s in good order, she’s fine. They’ve just had to walk her. They said she’s so high that they can’t hardly hold her down, which I’m kind of glad. I wanted to see her energy level high before she got on the flight anyway. The farm’s near the airport. It’s a nice place — plenty of green grass, big open stalls, she’s been eating and drinking.

“… I’m not thrilled with the delay, but I’m not overly worried about it anyway. She was already going to be here 10 days prior, and now she’ll be here eight days prior. I was hoping to give her a little workout Saturday. But with her not arriving until tonight, she’s going to get Thursday to rest and we’ll train Friday. But Saturday might be too quick. It’s going to depend on how she eats and how well she traveled. She’s going to get to cruise the course a couple of times, so that’s good too.”

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The start of the Oaks and Derby at Epsom Downs.
The Invested Derby and Oaks at Epsom Downs start with a lengthy incline. Photos courtesy Kenny McPeek

In the meantime, McPeek spent part of Wednesday walking the course at historic Epsom Downs Racecourse southwest of London. He last walked that course and at Ascot in 2003, when he had a seven-hour layover in London while flying back from running Hard Back in the UAE Derby in Dubai. The next year McPeek ran his first horse in England, with Hard Buck finishing second in the prestigious King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Ascot.

Interactive map of British racecourses 

The delay had one advantage. Because McPeek already was in Britain, he had plenty of time to check out the lay of the land. He scrapped plans to stable with a local trainer, feeling it was too far from the course. Now, Daddys Lil Darling is shipping to what would be the equivalent of the stakes barn at Epsom, he said.

“Where she’s going to stabled is the same place (Irish superstars) Galileo and Sea the Stars were,” he said.

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