McCracken Makes Early Derby Talk with Off the Pace Win in $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill
McCraken made it 3-for-3 Saturday, rallying from the back of the pack at the half mile pole to win the 1 1/16 mile Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs. McCraken moved up easily when summoned by jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. and charged down the lane before drawing off in the final furlong to win by 1 1/4 lengths.
McCraken, the 4-5 favorite, paid $3.60, $2.40 and $2.40 while picking up 10 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. He finished the 1 1/16-mile race over a fast track in 1:44.15. Runner-up Wild Shot, with Corey Lanerie aboard, paid $4.40 and $3.60, and another 3 3/4 lengths back, the Churchill Downs Racing Club’s Warrior Club, with Robby Albarado aboard, paid $3.60. Uncontested, the early leader, got home in fourth.
McCraken, a Ghostzapper colt out of the Seeking the Gold mare Ivory Empress, has won all three of his races at Churchill Downs.
“He is as good as I thought he was and he handled it well,” said winning trainer Ian Wilkes. “They didn’t hand it to him. It wasn’t easy. He came through for us.”
Clay Whitham, a co-owner, said the performance sparks thoughts of the first Saturday in May. “I believe we are getting Derby fever,” he said.
Wilkes said he has yet to map out a 3-year-old campaign for McCraken, who is named after a Kansas town.
“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,” Hernandez said. “He’s 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.”