Trainer Ian Wilkes got to breathe a sigh of relief March 11 when he sent unbeaten McCraken out for an easy half-mile move at Palm Meadows Training Center, the first work for the son of Ghostzapper since a mild ankle strain was discovered in his left front Feb. 28.
Janis Whitham's homebred colt covered four furlongs in :50 1/5 Saturday with Wilkes saying he caught the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) winner galloping out in :12 flat. Though Wilkes was confident from the start the ankle ailment would prove a mild setback, it was nonetheless heartening for him to see McCraken finish up strong with no signs of a physical issue.
"Oh yeah, it's just good to get that work in and get back to a routine, that's the main thing," Wilkes said. "He had just a maintenance half, I was very pleased with him. The best thing about it was he got better. He galloped out really strong."
Wilkes had planned to start McCraken in the March 11 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (G2), but scrapped that idea when bay runner emerged with the ankle strain following a four-furlong move Feb. 27. That Wilkes was able to get the multiple graded stakes winner back on the worktab 12 days after means his charge hasn't had to sacrifice much in the way of conditioning and remains on track to start in the April 8 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2) at Keeneland.
Out of the Seeking the Gold mare Ivory Empress, McCraken is unblemished in four career starts. He notched his 1 1/2-length victory in the Feb. 11 Sam F. Davis in a track record time of 1:42.45 for 1 1/16 miles at Tampa Bay Downs, and has earnings of $310,848.