Homeracing

Seven Kentucky Derby Horses in Seven Days: The Mighty McCraken

Profile Picture: John Mucciolo

April 28th, 2017

I will focus on one runner for each of the seven days leading up to the Kentucky Derby, starting with the Ian Wilkes-trained McCraken.

He’s a colt I’ve liked since the career debut, scoring by open lengths at Churchill Downs in early October for a barn that never wins first time out. McCraken was well-backed in the 6-furlong sprint and surely looked the part visually, coming outside in the stretch and blowing past foes at a less-than-ideal distance. A pair of subsequent victories last fall, topped by a convincing win in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) under the Twin Spires, only heightened my affection for the son of Ghostzapper.

Much has been made of the bay being flat in the stretch of the Blue Grass S. (G2) in his latest outing when the favorite, but he has multiple excuses for not finishing in the top two at Keeneland and I expect a huge leap forward. The flasy three-year-old missed a bit of training time prior to the Blue Grass and might have been a bit “short” for the tilt, and in addition, might have been kept short by a heady outfit that wants him to peak at Churchill.

I liked his Blue Grass effort and thought pilot Brian Hernandez might have discouraged him from running early into a moderate pace, which McCraken is capable of doing. Nobody was making up ground in that contest and it seems like a very good prep for the Derby, in my view. Wilkes knows what it takes to win the Kentucky Derby, serving as Hall of Famer Carl Nafzger’s top assistant when he captured the 1990 edition with Unbridled and the 2007 running with Street Sense.

A recent series of fine morning drills indicate the Janis Whitham homebred will be peaking on May 6 over a surface which he dons a perfect 3-for-3 mark. From a pedigree and running style standpoint, McCraken might also move forward going 10 panels. Wilkes was recently quoted as saying his colt “never gets tired,” adding to my confidence in a big way.

Prediction

I have been on McCraken since his unveiling and see no reason why to get off the bandwagon now. He wins the Kentucky Derby!

TwinSpires has a special page devoted to 2017 Kentucky Derby workouts. And check out the TwinSpires YouTube site to view training sessions for Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks contenders at Churchill Downs

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