For a race that lacks any of the winners of this year's American classics, the 1 1/8-mile Haskell Invitational Stakes (G1) at Monmouth Park couldn't have done much better in drawing a field that brings an ideal mix of quality and depth.
Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) winner Always Dreaming turned in a five-furlong breeze in 1:01.71 over the Oklahoma training track July 22 at Saratoga Race Course in preparation for the July 29 Jim Dandy Stakes (G2).
Multiple graded stakes winner McCraken recorded a half-mile breeze in :49 3/5 at Churchill Downs July 1 in preparation for a likely start in the July 30 betfair.com Haskell Invitational Stakes (G1) at Monmouth Park, trainer Ian Wilkes said.
The McCraken that inspires confidence from trainer Ian Wilkes is the one that showed up in the June 17 Matt Winn Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs, unleashing his typical kick after ranging up on the final turn en route to a 2 1/4-length triumph.
Trainer Phil Sims would just as soon have the Turtle Bowl gelding keeps things simple on June 17 by duplicating the same effort in Saturday's $200,000 Wise Dan Stakes (G2T) at Churchill Downs that earned him the victory in the test one year ago.
Janis Whitham's homebred McCraken put in his first timed move since running eighth in the first leg of the Triple Crown, going an easy half-mile in :49 4/5 at Churchill Downs the morning of May 23.
Janis Whitham homebred Walkabout secured her first stakes win when she rallied from ninth place and 15 1/2 lengths back under jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. to secure a neck victory in the $100,000 Matron Stakes (G3) May 20 at Churchill Downs.
Start to finish, Bird Song led the field in the $400,000 Alysheba Stakes presented by Big Fish Casino (G2) May 5 at Churchill Downs.
Since his high-water mark as a trainer, when Drogue scored a record-setting nine-length victory in the $100,000 Fifth Season Stakes for older horses in 2014, at Oaklawn Park, Mike Johnson has won only three races. But he's ridden some of the best.
As he took in Ian Wilkes' cool demeanor less than a week out from the first leg of the Triple Crown, it was hard to find anyone enjoying the ascent of multiple graded stakes winner McCraken more than Carl Nafzger himself.
In his final major preparation for what will be his most significant race beneath the Twin Spires, Janis Whitham's homebred looked every bit the house horse, turning in a strong five-furlong move in 1:00 4/5 under jockey Brian Hernandez Jr.
Whether McCraken becomes the latest Derby winner to come out of Churchill's Barn 26 remains to be seen, but the bay colt put in five-furlong drill in 1:00 3/5 April 24 that was nearly as buzz worthy as Street Sense's final move before his triumph.
Back at his home track, Churchill Downs, McCraken showed composure before and during his half-mile drill April 18 in :47 4/5.
Trainer Ian Wilkes had his humor intact and his perspective on point Sunday morning less than 24 hours after McCraken finished third in the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2) April 8, the colt's first loss in five career starts.
Unbeaten McCraken soared through his final move in preparation for the April 8 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2), covering a half-mile in :49 2/5 at Keeneland.
After dispatching fellow grade 1 winner Catch a Glimpse in her 2017 debut, Moyglare Stud Farm's Celestine will look to continue her roll by defending her title in the $300,000 Honey Fox Stakes (G2T) at Gulfstream Park April 1.
Janis Whitham's homebred son of Ghostzapper worked a seemingly effortless five furlongs in 1:00 at Keeneland March 20 in preparation for a Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2) start.
Trainer Ian Wilkes breathed 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 colt since a mild ankle strain was discovered in his left front Feb. 28.
Janis Whitham's unbeaten homebred McCraken has resumed galloping at Palm Meadows Training Center the past few days and remains on track to start in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2) at Keeneland April 8.
Marylou Whitney's Bird Song took the lead after a half-mile and kept Realm and Tale of S'avall at bay in the stretch to earn his first graded stakes victory in the $100,000 Fred W. Hooper Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park March 4.
Unbeaten multiple graded stakes winner McCraken will miss the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (G2) March 11 after emerging from a four-furlong move Feb. 27 with a slight strain to his left front ankle.
The unbeaten 3-year-old colt raised his connections' optimism several notches Feb. 11 at Tampa Bay Downs, where he won the $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) by 1 1/2 lengths.
The built up to McCraken's seasonal bow ended with results to match. Under some left-handed urging from jockey Brian Hernandez Jr., the unbeaten colt unleashed a wicked turn of foot down the middle of the track to win the $250,000 Sam F. Davis (G3).
- By Alicia Wincze Hughes
- Thoroughbred Racing, Triple Crown, Southeast Region, Southwest Region, Kentucky
As the regular rider for McCraken, the 2-1 morning-line favorite for Saturday's Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3), jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. could find his current groundswell of momentum dwarfed by what could come his way should his mount prevail.
One of the more highly regarded classic prospects for 2017, McCraken gets his first chance to make good on his buildup when he makes his seasonal bow against eight others in the 1 1/16-mile Sam F. Davis (G3).
The first sophomore step for McCraken will come when he makes his seasonal bow in the 1 1/16-mile Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs Feb. 11, trainer Ian Wilkes said after the colt worked five furlongs in 1:00.45 Jan. 25.
Just as he was rounding into top form, the bay son of Macho Uno emerged from that race with a knee chip that required surgery and kept him away from the races for eight months.
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.
What better way to bring color to winter than to envision roses in bloom on the first Saturday in May, scented green leaves adorning glasses of mint juleps, and the famed Twin Spires piercing a bright cerulean sky.
The build up around McCraken live up to the billing in the 1 1/16 miles Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes as Janis Whitham's homebred used his big turn of foot to edge clear late under Brian Hernandez Jr. and remain unbeaten in three career starts.
After dueling in early stretch with grade I winner Harmonize, Linda found another gear in the final furlong to register a clear win in the $200,000 Mrs. Revere Stakes (gr. IIT) at Churchill Downs.
Thatcher Street capped a big day at Churchill Downs for Australian-born trainer Ian Wilkes when his 5-year-old gelding came back to beat chief rival Pleuven by a half-length to win the $100,000 River City Handicap (gr. IIIT) Nov. 24.
Eleven challengers will provide a litmus test on the quality of undefeated McCraken as a dozen juveniles have passed the entry box for the 1 1/16 miles Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II).
Trainer Ian Wilkes thought Marylou Whitney Stable's 4-year-old colt Gorgeous Bird had considerable talent but just wasn't quite getting it all together.
Multiple graded stakes winner Commissioner headlines a field of eight for the 79th running of the $250,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup (gr. II) Nov. 28 at Hawthorne Racecourse.
Neck 'n Neck and Majestic Harbor head the Oct. 30 Marathon Stakes (gr. II) at 1 3/4 miles, the longest race that will be run over Breeders' Cup weekend at Keeneland.
Ted Mitzlaff's Neck 'n Neck just got up in the final strides to take the $200,000 Greenwood Cup (gr. III) from Parx Racing on Monday afternoon.
Island Town sat just off the pace and pounced at the quarter pole to claim his second graded stakes score in the $300,000 Smarty Jones Stakes (gr. III) Aug. 29 at Parx Racing.
Twice grade III-placed Uncle Sigh breezed four furlongs in :49.54 on the Oklahoma training track Tuesday, July 21, at Saratoga Race Course as the son of Indian Charlie prepares for his first start in more than a year.
Fresh off a win in the $500,000 Ohio Derby, Calumet Farm's Mr. Z has been selected as the morning-line favorite for the $500,000-added Indiana Derby (gr. II) July 18 at Indiana Grand Racing & Casino.
Tonalist will find himself in easier company July 4 than he did last time out, with only five to tackle and not another grade I winner in the bunch in the $500,000 Suburban Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont Park.
Michael Langford's Carve, a determined neck winner of the 2014 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap (gr. III), is back in the 2015 edition and looking for his second score of the season June 27 at Prairie Meadows.
Island Town led out of the gate and prevailed in a bumpy finish in the Matt Winn Stakes (gr. III) June 13 at Churchill Downs.
A. Stevens Miles Jr., a retired Kentucky banker, civic leader, and Thoroughbred owner, died April 25 in Louisville. He was 85.
Now in its eighth year, the Breeders' Cup Challenge provides automatic bids to horses that win top stakes in the U.S. and throughout the world that correspond with one of the 13 Breeders' Cup World Championships races.
Tiz Windy made her second attempt in graded stakes company a successful one when she ran down the leaders late to take the $200,000 Indiana Oaks (gr. II) at Indiana Grand Race Course the evening of Oct. 4.
Mr Speaker, winner of the Belmont Derby Invitational (gr. IT) on turf in his most recent start, has been confirmed for the $1.25 million Travers (gr. I) on the dirt after breezing Aug. 17 at Saratoga Race Course.
Fresh off a victory over the Tampa Bay Downs turf course, Nicklaus Way goes in search of his first graded stakes win for trainer Ian Wilkes Feb. 1 in the $150,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Stakes (gr. IIIT).
Bourbon Courage, fourth in the Clark Handicap (gr. I), takes on Csaba and Neck 'n Neck in the $100,000 Harlan's Holiday Stakes Dec. 22 prep for the Donn Handicap (gr. I) at Gulfstream Park.
Janis Whitham's Fort Larned completed serious preparation for this week's bid for consecutive victories in the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park with a five-furlong workout Oct. 28 at Churchill Downs.
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