Top Derby Contender McCraken Out of Tampa Bay Derby

Ankle Injury Slows McCraken until April 8 Blue Grass Stakes

Kentucky Jockey Club winner and unbeaten McCraken will miss his next scheduled start in the March 11 Tampa Bay Derby following a minor setback in training Feb. 27. Trainer Ian Wilkes announced the news Tuesday.

“He’s got a slight strain in his ankle,” Wilkes said. “He X-rayed clean, but I don’t want to come back and work him next week [ahead of the Tampa Bay Derby]. I would rather skip that race and take care of the horse.”

McCraken (Ghostzapper) is 4-for-4 including a season-opening victory in the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Feb. 11. His 1 ½ length win at Tampa was his first start outside of Churchill Downs and improved his earnings to $310,848. While the setback will reduce his Kentucky Derby prep to two races, Wilkes is downplaying the news and remains upbeat on his talented colt.

“It is not really a concern, to be honest,” Wilkes commented. “Maybe he knows better than me.” This is a minor setback, but these things happen when you train horses.“

Only one Tampa Derby winner in 35 runnings has gone on to win the Kentucky Derby.

McCraken will be pointed towards the Grade II Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland Apr. 8. He remains at the top of the list in the recent Thoroughbred Daily News Kentucky Derby Top 12.

Owned and bred by Janis Whitham, McCraken turned in his first work since annexing the Sam Davis Monday at Palm Meadows, covering a half-mile in a smooth :48.90 (6/27).

“He worked great, galloped out tremendously and I couldn’t ask for more,” Wilkes said. “He was out in [a minute] 13 and change, I was tickled to death. But I just feel like … the horse comes first. And I don’t want to come back and work him next week for the Tampa Bay Derby. If I have to miss a race, I would rather miss this one, take care of the horse, get him right and run him in the Blue Grass.”

McCraken, was the lowest price among the individual entries at 6-1 in the most recent Kentucky Derby Future Wager pool, which closed the evening of Feb. 26.

McCraken has shown a keen, in-race sense of being in control without being overly aggressive, and an impressive ability to shift into multiple gears while responding willingly to encouragement in the late stages of races. But as the Triple Crown contenders start to sort themselves out, we’ll learn much more beginning March 25 when the majority of the important Derby preps extend to 9 furlongs

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