McCraken looms large in Kentucky Jockey Club; Daddy’s Lil Darling heads Golden Rod

Profile Picture: James Scully

November 23rd, 2016

McCraken has done everything right so far, recording convincing wins in two career starts, and the Ian Wilkes-trained colt will make his first attempt at the graded level in Saturday’s $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs. The son of Ghostzapper heads a field of 12 in the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” series race, with a combined 17 points available to the top four finishers (10-4-2-1).

He rallied to win going away by 2 ½ lengths when making his first outing at 6-furlongs and came back four weeks later to post a smashing 3 ¾-length triumph in the one-mile Street Sense on October 30, registering a commendable 94 BRIS Speed rating. Both wins came at Churchill Downs with jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. and McCraken now stretches out to two turns in the 1 1/16-mile test. The late runner will break from post 11.

Warrior’s Club will take betting action following a 2 ¾-length score in the restricted Spendthrift Stallion at Churchill Downs. Trained by legendary Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, the Warrior’s Reward colt broke his maiden last time after placing in four straight races. Robby Albarado rides.

Pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager opens its four-day run on Thanksgiving and joining McCracken as individual interests are Just Move On, Uncontested and Wild Shot.

Just Move On returns to stakes competition following a convincing allowance score at Churchill Downs on November 10. Declan Cannon retains the mount on the Patrick Byrne-trained son of Street Boss.

Uncontested steps up to try stakes foes in his second career start after rolling to six-length, wire-to-wire decision over maiden rivals at Keeneland on October 19. Channing Hill rides the Tiz Wonderful colt for Wayne Catalano.

Wild Shot graduated easily in his second outing at Churchill Downs and exits a third-place effort in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) to presumptive juvenile champion Classic Empire. Conditioned by Rusty Arnold, the Trappe Shot colt brings plenty of speed to the equation and adds a new rider in Corey Lanerie.

Other runners include Han Sense, an Iowa-bred stakes winner who exits a pair of non-threatening seconds in the Nashua (G2) and Grey (G3) for Mike Maker; Arlington-Washington Futurity (G2) runner-up Romeo O Romeo, who is thrice stakes-placed; Shareholder Value, who exits a runaway victory in an off-the-turf maiden event at Keeneland; and Ohio-bred Jocker Justice, a restricted stakes winner at Thistledown.

In the filly counterpart, the $200,000 Golden Rod (G2), Daddy’s Lil Darling is the one to beat. The Kenny McPeek-trained daughter of Scat Daddy captured the Pocahontas (G2) at Churchill Downs in September and followed with a runner-up in the Alciabides (G1) at Keeneland and a fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at Santa Anita.

Her late-running effort last time was remarkable considering the trouble she experienced entering the first turn and Daddy’s Lil Darling will keep Lanerie in the irons.

The Golden Rod serves as a “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” qualifier and similar to the Kentucky Jockey Club, it features a field of 12 at 1 1/16 miles.

Lovely Bernadette brings momentum following a half-length tally in the October 30 Rags to Riches at Churchill Downs. James Divito trains the Wilburn filly and Albarado rides. China Grove and Farrell, second and third in the Rags to the Riches, are also part of the mix.

Pocahontas runner-up Ever So Clever tuned up for the Golden Rod with a convincing allowance win at Keeneland and Fun merits respect off a third in the Alciabides.

Other contestants include last-out winners Dance Proposal, Gris Gris, My Sweet Someday and Someday Soon.

McCraken photo courtesy of Coady