McCraken, a multiple Graded Stakes-winning son of leading sire Ghostzapper, has been retired from racing and will in 2019 stand at Airdrie Stud in Midway, Ky., it was announced Tuesday.
A homebred for Mrs. Janis R. Whitham’s Whitham Thoroughbreds, LLC, and trained by Ian Wilkes, McCraken first rose to national prominence during an undefeated juvenile campaign in 2016 that included dominant victories in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club and Street Sense Stakes at Churchill Downs.
McCraken cemented his place at or near the top of all Kentucky Derby Future lists with a track-record setting 3-year-old debut in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Downs. A well-chronicled ankle twist kept him from an intended start in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby, and McCraken later returned with a third-place finish as the 8-5 favorite in the Grade 2 Toyota Bluegrass Stakes at Keeneland before finishing a troubled eighth in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby.
His return to the winner’s circle came via a commanding victory as the 1-5 favorite in the Grade 3 Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill. That dominant performance was followed by an anguishing second-place finish in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational. Taking the lead by open lengths after a sensational move around the final turn, McCraken was caught in the last jump by the surging Grade 1 winner Girvin. The final margin was a nose and he was followed home by leading 3-year-olds Practical Joke, Battle of Midway and Irish War Cry.
A winner and graded stakes-placed at 4, McCraken was retired following an unplaced finish in last month’s rainstorm-affected G1 Whitney H. at Saratoga. In all, he won six times with four placings in 14 lifetime starts, and earned $869,728.
Bred from a deep Whitham family, McCraken is the second foal out of the Seeking the Gold mare, Ivory Empress, a young Graded Stakes-placed sprinter whose first foal, Bondurant, is also Graded Stakes placed. Ivory Empress is out of the Graded Stakes winner and Grade 1-placed, Madame Pandit, who is also the dam of the Grade 1-winner, Mea Domina.
“Everyone gets excited when a horse is talented enough to do what they really shouldn’t be able to do,” said Airdrie’s Bret Jones. “By anyone’s definition, Ghostzapper is one of the best stallions in America, but McCraken remains the only Graded Stakes-winning two-year-old son he’s ever produced. Not only that, but he was a truly dominant, undefeated juvenile that could then train on to be a track-record setter and multiple graded-stakes winner at 3.
"His record of six wins in seven starts at a mile and a sixteenth or less also demonstrates that he’s got the miler speed and turn of foot that has been the signature of so many leading sires. We really believe he offers our breeders tremendous upside at a very reasonable stud fee for a beautifully bred, exceptionally talented horse that was a nose bob away from winning the Grade 1 Haskell.”
“McCraken was one of the most naturally talented horses I’ve ever been around and his turn of foot was second to none,” added trainer Ian Wilkes. “He took the Whitham family and our stable on a great ride and I look forward to training Grade 1 winners by him in the future.”
McCraken will stand for $10,000 in 2019.