After a pair of defeats, McCraken will get a class break in the Matt Winn

After a pair of defeats, McCraken will get a class break in the Matt Winn

Chad B. Harmon

McCraken Faces Short Field in Matt Winn at Churchill

Toyota Blue Grass favorite looks to get back on track after pair of defeats.

McCraken has scared off all but five foes for the $100,000 Matt Winn Stakes (G3) for 3-year-olds at Churchill Downs June 17. Janis Whitham's homebred son of Ghostzapper  will carry a high weight of 123 pounds in the 1 1/16-mile event, giving five pounds to each of his rivals.

McCraken began his career with four consecutive victories, including the Street Sense Stakes and Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) at 2 at Churchill, then opened his sophomore campaign with a clear win in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3).

Bet down to favoritism in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2), the Ian Wilkes trainee tracked the pace but failed to make an impression down the lane, finishing third. Sent off in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) at 6-1, McCraken broke sideways, ran in mid-pack, and ended up finishing eighth. He had won all three of his races at Churchill before the Derby.

Both Excitations and Colonelsdarktemper ran in the Pat Day Mile Stakes Presented by LG&E and KU (G3) at Churchill on Derby Day, but neither looked very impressive. Coming off an allowance score at Keeneland, Excitations split the field early but faded, finishing 11th of 12. He is owned by the Fair Grounds Racing Club, a syndicate of fans who make a relatively small investment to get a taste of Thoroughbred ownership. Excitations has treated them to a pair of wins and a second in five starts.

Colonelsdarktemper checked in eighth in the Pat Day, which was run over a wet-fast track, but came back to score in an allowance tilt at seven furlongs at Churchill May 29. He can track early, but will need to shake off the late charge of McCraken.

Aquamarine is on his second Hall of Fame trainer, having begun his career under Bob Baffert with a first-out win at Santa Anita in January. Stepped up to the San Vicente Stakes (G2) in his second start, he ran a distant fourth of five, and didn’t improve noticeably in an allowance optional claimer, after which he was turned over to D. Wayne Lukas by owner Zayat Stables. He scored in the mud at Keeneland first out for Lukas, then ran a game second in the Chick Lang Stakes at Pimlico after encountering trouble. The Matt Winn will be his first effort at two turns.

Mo's Mojo broke his maiden in the slop at Churchill May 21 in his fifth try, showing a nice late kick. Continued improvement gives him a puncher’s chance here. Society Beau is the most experienced runner in the field, though that is not necessarily a positive, as it took him four tries to break his maiden and another six to graduate the first-level allowance class. He tried stakes company for the first time in the May 20 LARC Sir Barton Stakes, and finished sixth after much trouble through the lane. He is a late runner but is at least accustomed to going two turns.

Entries: Matt Winn S. (G3)

Churchill Downs, Saturday, June 17, 2017, Race 5

  • Grade III
  • 1 1/16m
  • Dirt
  • $100,000
  • 3 yo
  • 8:03 PM (local)
11Excitations (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateMiguel Mena118Albert M. Stall, Jr.9/2
22McCraken (KY)Brian Joseph Hernandez, Jr.123Ian R. Wilkes4/5
33Colonelsdarktemper (KY)Jon Kenton Court118William H. Fires4/1
44Mo's Mojo (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJulien R. Leparoux118Randy L. Morse10/1
55Aquamarine (FL)Florent Geroux118D. Wayne Lukas5/1
66Society Beau (KY)Robby Albarado118Neil J. Howard12/1