Janis Whitham's homebred McCraken, in an attempt to land an elusive grade 1 victory, will continue to prepare for his next start in the $500,000 Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (G1) Nov. 24 at Churchill Downs.
"I am so proud of how well he ran in the (grade 2 Hagyard) Fayette (Stakes) off a two-month layoff," said trainer Ian Wilkes. "I'd love to get a grade 1 victory for him before his 3-year-old campaign is over, and at his home track in the Clark could be the perfect spot."
McCraken was highly touted entering the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1), but finished a disappointing eighth after he encountered trouble at the start. The Ghostzapper colt rebounded after the Triple Crown season with a victory in the Matt Winn Stakes (G3) and finished a narrowly beaten second to Girvin in the Betfair.com Haskell Invitational Stakes (G1) at Monmouth Park in late July.
After a non-threatening seventh in the Travers Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1) at Saratoga Race Course in August, McCraken ran against elders for the first time in the Oct. 28 Fayette and finished third over a sloppy racetrack at Keeneland.
"He really dug in to get third," Wilkes said. "When I talked to (jockey Brian Hernandez Jr.) after the race, he said he really lowered his body and puffed up when a horse engaged him. The track was playing pretty forward throughout the day, so it was hard to make up ground. I think in the Clark we'll get a full field, and hopefully a couple horses will make the race a better pace for him to run at."
McCraken breezed a half-mile in :50 2/5 Nov. 7 at Churchill, which was his first published workout since the Fayette. The bay colt has an overall record of 5-1-2 from 10 starts and earnings of $722,228 with four victories coming beneath the Twin Spires.