McCraken Nears 3-Year-Old Season Debut in Florida

McCraken Nears 3-Year-Old Season Debut in Florida
Photo: Coady Photography
McCraken is preparing for his first start since winning last year's Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes.

Janice Whitham's homebred grade 2 winner McCraken, undefeated in three career starts, continues to train forwardly at Palm Meadows Training Center for his 3-year-old debut, trainer Ian Wilkes said.

A bay son of 2002 Horse of the Year and 2012 Hall of Famer Ghostzapper  , McCraken shows four half-mile works since mid-December at Gulfstream Park's satellite training facility in Palm Beach County, including his latest Jan. 9 when he breezed a half-mile in :50.50.

"It's amazing, isn't it? Everyone gets excited when you have a 2-year-old turning 3," Wilkes said. "He's exciting. He's a very talented horse."

McCraken has yet to race somewhere other than Churchill Downs, where he captured his unveiling by 2 1/2 lengths going 6 1/2 furlongs in October before following up with a 3 3/4-length triumph in the one-mile Street Sense Stakes 28 days later.

Showing a maturity to match his talent, McCraken rallied from far back to take the 1 1/16-mile Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) Nov. 26 to close his juvenile campaign, splitting horses on the far turn and cruising to the wire 1 1/4 lengths in front.

"He's always showed that talent in the mornings," Wilkes said. "He's three-for-three and done everything right. He's doing well and, touch wood, everything's great."

Among the races Wilkes is considering for McCraken are Gulfstream's series for 3-year-olds including the $350,000 Holy Bull (G2) at 1 1/16 miles and $200,000 Swale (G2) at seven furlongs Feb. 4; and the $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2) March 4, also at 1 1/16 miles.

"It just depends. We'll see. I'll watch and see how the track is playing. He is a bit of a closer," Wilkes said. "Starting early next month, we'll look for a race."

Wilkes was pleased with another of his 3-year-olds, Creative Courage, who broke his maiden on his fourth try and first of 2017 with a front-running neck victory as the favorite in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight Jan. 7 at Gulfstream.

"That was a nice effort. In his last race they ran by him and he came back and nearly got there. We're very encouraged with him," Wilkes said. "We'll probably just come back in an allowance; one step at a time with him. He's still learning, even though he's run four times. He's just getting it together. I don't want to get in a hurry with him."

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