Defining Purpose charges to win Year’s End Stakes

HOT SPRINGS -- As expected, Sherri McPeek's Defining Purpose, trained by McPeek's husband Kenny McPeek, pulled away from eight other entrants to a 51/4-length win as the 2-1 favorite in the $150,000 Year's End Stakes for 2-year-old fillies in 1:39.23 over 1 mile Saturday at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort.

Kenny McPeek trained four of the 10 Oaklawn winners on New Year's Eve, including Frosted Departure, the winner of the 6-furlong Renaissance Stakes for 2-year-old horses.

"I just rode her confidently," said David Cabrera, Defining Purpose's jockey. "She works for Kenny McPeek, and what else can I ask for? I didn't force her at the start. All I did was make sure I had a clear spot to run."

Unifying finished second, three-quarters of a length in front of Take Charge Briana's homestretch charge to third. Richard Bahde's Taxed led through three-quarters of a mile but faded to fourth, 81/4 lengths behind the winner.

"[Cabrera] is a really solid rider," McPeek said. "He's worked hard. I have had a lot of success with him. He's got great touch with a young horse, and he's a real gentleman."

Unifying, under the ride of Ricardo Santana Jr., led through the opening quarter-mile in 23.68. Taxed, the longest shot in the field ridden by Joe Talamo and trained by Randy Morse, was second, a half-length behind Unifying and 1 length ahead of third-place Midnight Heiress, who would finish last. Defining Purpose was relaxed in fourth, two lengths of Unifying's lead.

Unifying still led through the half in 47.86, a head in front of Taxed. Defining Purpose remained in fourth.

Taxed, off at 22-1, had the look of an upset winner when she took the lead and surged ahead through five furlongs. But as she approached three-quarters, Defining Purpose rushed forward as expected and trailed Taxed by a head through six furlongs in 1:12.76.

"Around the turn, I felt like I had a lot of horse," Talamo said. "First start off the claim for Randy. Fourth start [overall]. I think she will definitely step forward off of that."

Defining Purpose had control at the head of the stretch with a 21/2-length lead.

"It was a tough race," Talamo said. "For the winner, that was a heck of a race she ran."

Take Charge Brianna rolled late to pass two horses, including Taxed, in Oaklawn's 1-furlong stretch..

"She finished out nice," said Cristian Torres. Take Charge Brianna's jockey. "She really finished out nice. I wish it was a longer race."

Defining Purpose's win completed a bountiful day for McPeek.

"It's a real luxury to have the kind of horses that we're handling [at Oaklawn]," he said. "For it to all come together on one day, it's a whole lot of fun to watch."