made a late rally from off the pace to capture the 2016
Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs, keeping his
perfect record intact.
At the start of the 1 1/16 mile
race, Channing Hill pushed Uncontested
from post 12 to make the pace by a length. A rank Wild Shot and Romeo O Romeo ran as a team behind
the pace setter with the rest of the field tightly grouped behind them. Jockey Brian Hernandez, Jr. settled McCraken
into ninth place on the outside during the early race stages. Uncontested clipped off a 23.45 opening quarter
mile and a 47.38 half mile. Never further than a length in front, Uncontested
rolled through six furlongs in 1:12 and a mile in 1:37.34.
McCraken was given his cue near
the 3/8 mile pole and started picking off horses. As they hit the top of the
stretch, no one was going anywhere fast. A tiring Uncontested and Wild Shot
started to stagger while Warrior's Club and McCraken slowly closed the gap. A half furlong from
the wire, Uncontested backed up, leaving Wild Shot to take on McCraken. It was
no contest, as McCraken breezed by Wild Shot to win by 1 ¼ lengths. Wild Shot finished
second, 3 ¾ lengths in front of Warrior’s
Club who placed third, a head in front of a
game Uncontested. McCracken ran 1 1/6 miles in 1:44.15.
McCraken rewarded his fans
with $3.60, $2.40 $2.40 across the board. Wild
Shot offered $4.40, $3.60 to place, while Warrior’s Club paid $3.60 to show. The $2 exacta was a chalky $15.00, the $2 trifecta paid $105.20, and the $2 superfecta was $359.60.
After the race, Brian Hernandez Jr. was Derby dreaming. “Anytime
you get a good
2-year-old like this you start thinking Derby, but we’ll just sit down
with Ian (Sunday) morning and we’ll map out a plan from here. He’s (McCraken) a boy
but he’s growing up and he’s getting it all together. He was a lot more
settled today and in his last race he hadn’t
run in a while but today he did everything the right way.”
Ian Wilkes was more grounded in his assessment of McCraken’s
victory. “He is as good as I thought he was and he handled it well. He needed
that race tonight, he needed a little test. He had to really run tonight, they
didn’t hand it to him. It wasn’t easy. He came through for us. He had to really
belly down and run so that was good. He’s got a tremendous turn of foot. He was
in a great spot and I thought that (jockey) Brian (Hernandez Jr.) rode him well
and I was very pleased with his performance tonight. He’s got a great mind, a
great turn of foot and he has the ability."
"I’m going to enjoy tonight, the hype
around him has been unbelievable all week." Wilkes declared. "The hype has been tremendous but I
just want to enjoy this for one and map out a plan with (owner) Mrs. (Janis)
Whitham and just not get ahead ourselves.”
Clay Whitham, co-owner of Mccraken explained, “He’s named
after a small town in Kansas. We just drive through there a lot. It’s super
exciting to have a good 2-year-old, it’s very exciting. We’ve raced a lot of
nice horses but we’ve never had one that we had considered a Derby prospect
since Mud Route and that was a long time ago.
Whitham was enthusiastic, but cautious about McCraken’s
future. “I believe we are getting Derby fever. Winning this race definitely
gives us expectations that he’s a good horse. We’ll see how it goes. Obviously
you don’t want to get too far ahead in this business, but he’s a very nice
McCraken (Ghostzapper - Ivory Empress, by Seeking the Gold) is a homebred racing
in the silks of Whitham Thoroughbreds, LLC. Ian Wilkes trains the bay colt.
McCraken is now 3-3-0-0 with $190,848 in earnings and 10 Kentucky Derby
qualifying points. The colt previously captured the Street Sense Stakes at
Churchill. He is the second foal and second blacktype earner out of the graded
stakes placed sprinter Ivory Empress McCraken’s half
brother Bondurant (War Front) is graded stakes placed on the turf.