Frac Daddy is surrounded by handlers whose reputations were made in businesses and ventures far away from thoroughbred racing.
No millionaire owners with thousand-acre farms in central Kentucky. No trainer with a $100 haircut and tailored suits to be shown off at Saturday stakes races at Saratoga. No coterie of stablemates accompanying him on airplane rides to races in Dubai or Los Angeles. No jockey with a thicket of Triple Crown wins to his credit.
If your rooting interests favor the underdogs or longshots, then you might look to Frac Daddy, a roan (gray) colored colt of few races, when this year’s Kentucky Derby gets here on May 4.
Frac Daddy has only five races on his slender resume.
He is owned by Magic City Thoroughbred Partners. There are only two partners — Carter Stewart and Ken Schlenker — and you can be forgiven if those names are unfamiliar.
The name Magic City comes from the partners’ home town, Billings, Montana — not exactly a crucible for finding Kentucky Derby entries.
Stewart and Schlenker are in the oil business. The Montana oil business. They don’t own a thoroughbred farm. Instead, they have their trainer, Kenny McPeek, be responsible for the everyday life of their tall and lengthy roan.
McPeek was the driving force behind Magic City purchasing Frac Daddy for $50,000 in 2011 at the Keeneland September sale.
McPeek does his racing in the main at Keeneland, Churchill Downs, New York and Gulfstream Park.
The reason McPeek doesn’t favor $100 haircuts is because he is bald.
Victor Lebron is the jockey. He came to America from St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Lebron began riding in St. Croix at age 14 and came to the United States in 2005. Even with riding titles at Turfway Park in Kentucky, Thistledown in Ohio and Hoosier Downs in Indiana, he is virtually unknown when compared with Mike Smith, Gary Stevens, Calvin Borel and Johnny Velazquez.
In Frac Daddy (the son of stakes-winner Scat Daddy), McPeek has a large-bodied distance runner whose best on-track days are ahead of him.
As a two-year in 2012, Frac Daddy only raced three times. His career debut came in the fall on Oct. 4 at Belmont Park in New York. He raced “greenly” and was trapped behind horses at various stages of that maiden race. But he kept trying, weaving through traffic and eventually finishing second.
In only his second start last year, he was at Churchill Downs in a moderate race of one mile-and-a-sixteenth against other non-winners. Frac Daddy enjoyed a clean trip and won at his leisure by some 10 lengths.
Just three weeks after his first win, he was placed in the Kentucky Jockey Club stakes. After circling the leaders at the head of the stretch, Frac Daddy held a short lead past the 1/16th pole. However, multiple stakes winner Uncaptured closed best of all and eased past him for a neck win.
Three races as a two-year-old. One win against marginal competition. McPeek was pleased and he was optimistic.
“Having been around a few good horses in my time, I think this horse could be any kind,” commented the 50-year-old McPeek. “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.”
Before Frac Daddy’s first try this year, McPeek said, “I think this horse has got as good a chance as any horse I’ve had in my career. The most impressive was his first race. 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.”
That first race in 2013 was a near-disaster when Frac Daddy finished seventh in the Grade I Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park. That wasn’t long ago on March 30.
McPeek brought him right back to the races on April 13. The Arkansas Derby, a Grade I event at Oaklawn Park, was going to be his final litmus test in a schedule that had the Kentucky Derby as its carrot-on-a-stick goal.
The 10-horse field included several other Kentucky Derby hopefuls. Overanalyze and Carve were also prospects for Triple Crown competition.
In a pulsating stretch drive, there were Frac Daddy and Overanalyze only feet apart as the finish line neared. It was Overanalyze prevailing by a neck at the end. But the shallow performance in the Florida Derby was all but forgotten. And Frac Daddy had the necessary points to qualify for the Kentucky Derby.
Kenny McPeek has never won The Derby. Magic City Thoroughbred Partners has never had an entry in the race. And jockey Lebron has no wins in the race. Underdogs all. Longshots all.
While trainer McPeek has shown no golden touch in the Kentucky Derby, he does have a win in the Belmont Stakes with 70-1 longshot Sarava. And he has trained Horse of the Year, Curlin, as well the successful Harlan’s Holiday.
If Frac Daddy is in the 20-horse Kentucky Derby field, don’t look for a bleached gray colt because he appears to be mostly black with just flecks of white on his ample body. The top of his head, between his eyes and then flowing back to some of his mane, is where the gray can be found.
The off-track happenings of Magic City Thoroughbred Partners, jockey Lebron and trainer Kenny McPeek will be linked with the short on-track history of Frac Daddy to make a composite story of serious underdogs.