McCraken Moves into Third on Kentucky Derby Leaderboard
By: EverythingEQ News Team
Janis Whitham’s homebred colt, McCraken, created much buzz prior to his season debut. On Saturday, February 11, he did not disappoint, setting a track record as he soared home to win the $250,000 Gr.3 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs by a length and a half.
State of Honor took the lead to set the pace on the inside and took the field through the quarter in :23.63 and half in :47.15. Meanwhile McCraken, under jockey Brian Hernandez, Jr., bided his time, running in seventh early on. At the quarter pole, he swung four-wide and closed on the field from the outside. Hernandez and McCraken beared out slightly in the stretch but were not deterred from their destination, turning back an attempt to close late from Tapwrit, who held on to finish second. State of Honor was third.
The final time was 1:42.45 for the 1 1/16 miles run over a fast track.
With this latest win, McCraken remains unbeaten in four starts and bumps his earnings to $310,848. He debuted at the beginning of October 2016 in a maiden special weight at Churchill Downs, breaking his maiden easily, and moved to stakes company from there. On October 30, he won the Street Sense Stakes easily and rounded out his year with the Gr.2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes.
“He puts a lot of confidence in you, that’s for sure,” said jockey Brian Hernandez. “You’ve just got to go with it and ride him with confidence. I asked him at about the half-mile pole and he hesitated a bit, but I think that was his way of telling me ‘Don’t worry. We’re going to get the job done.’”
The Sam F. Davis marks the Ghostzapper colt’s first start outside his home base of Kentucky and bumped him to third – with 20 points – on the Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard. He is now tied with El Areeb and Gormley, who also hold 20 points each. The race offered points to the top four finishers in a 10-4-2-1 fashion.
“If he’s good enough, he’ll take us there,” trainer Ian Wilkes said, referring to the the Derby. “I don’t know how good [he is], but there have been some nice horses that have run a mile-and-a-sixteenth here. We’ve got a long way to go. This is not a one-race program. I want two more races for him, then the Derby. This is just one stepping stone, and we keep building.”
McCraken is out of Ivory Empress, a graded stakes placed daughter of Seeking the Gold, who was also a homebred for Whitham.