By Kelsey Riley
First-year stallions always create a lot of buzz in January in Kentucky, with farms showing off the new arrivals at open houses to breeders eager to see how they have developed since they left the track, and reminding those breeders of their racing exploits. Sunday, we caught up with Cormac Breathnach, Director of Stallion Nominations for Airdrie Stud, to talk about their new multiple graded stakes-winning son of Ghostzapper, McCraken.
TDN: Let’s talk a minute about his racing career.
CB: McCraken was a top performer. He was an undefeated, graded-stakes-winning two-year-old and to this point still remains the only graded two-year-old colt by Ghostzapper. He broke his maiden very impressively at Churchill Downs for Ian Wilkes, who we all know is a very patient trainer and lets his horses come along, so that was a really marked kind of debut performance. He then went on to win the Street Sense S. and followed up with the GII Kentucky Jockey Club S. In his three-year-old debut, he broke the track record winning the GIII Sam Davis S. and by that point was kind of the consensus number one Derby pick, if you will, for most people. He ran well in the Derby. He got struck into leaving the gate. I think a mile and a quarter might have been a little step too far for him.
He came back, got a little recuperation time following the Derby, came back and won the GIII Matt Winn S. very impressively. And then was just touched off from the wire in the GI Haskell Invitational. Girvin caught him, Practical Joke was behind, Battle of Midway and Irish War Cry were in the race. It was a strong renewal of the race. He basically had the race won, opened up two or three lengths at the eighth pole and I think just got caught the last few strides and Girvin got there. But a really top performer. He was six for seven up to a mile and a sixteenth. The horse we’re really proud to retire here to Airdrie and he really fits our model very well.
TDN: Being a top-class son of Ghostzapper like that has to be a plus as well.
CB: Absolutely, I mean Ghostzapper is a horse I was very close to for a long time (at Adena Springs) and there’s been a market for a son of Ghostzapper for many years. He has been a top stallion for the last several years and to us, McCraken is hands down the best one to retire to Kentucky. And what he really offers breeders that’s a little unusual in that sire line is precocity. He was so quick and ready to go early as a two year old, and that’s not always something that comes with the Awesome Again and Ghostzapper sire line, they’re typically two turn, three and up type of horse. So he adds a lot of speed and a lot of early performance to that sire line.
TDN: Can you tell us a little about the horse’s conformation?
CB: He stands just over 16 hands. He’s 16 1/2. He’s a very balanced horse. He’s got a lot of both his sire and grandsire in him. He’s leggier but he’s got that tremendously long deep shoulder and deep chest that Ghostzapper has and a very long and strong gaskin. Which to me are really true traits of Ghostzapper. He’s a short-ish coupled horse. Very balanced. You know he looks like he’s the kind of horse that you can breed to a lot of different mares, a lot of different body types, because he’s sort of the bullseye. You know there isn’t a lot that you need to add or subtract with him. He’s correct in front, moves well, you know so we’re very pleased with him.
TDN: How many mares would you expect him to cover this year?
CB: I’d say we’ll get in the region of 120, maybe 140 mares, but somewhere in that window. We’re well on the path to that right now and we just hope to add a few in this January sale coming up and through the spring. But we’re very pleased with the quality of mares he’s been getting. We’ll get good support from Governor Jones as all our stallions do and that’s really a key I think, you know to getting horses off on the right foot. So, we’re going to breed plenty of nice mares to him, about 20 mares or so and then we’re getting some good outside support. It’s all positive.
TDN: Finally, how’s he settling in?
CB: He’s settled in really well. He’s a professional horse. He’s very comfortable in the new environment. He’s been test bred and he’s done exceedingly well with that. So far, he has been a really easy resident to the stallion barn. We look forward to that continuing.