Whitham Thoroughbreds' undefeated 'TDN Rising Star' McCraken (Ghostzapper) continued his preparations for the Apr. 8 GII Toyota Blue Grass S. Monday morning, breezing five furlongs in a minute flat beneath regular rider Brian Hernandez, Jr. at Keeneland (video). The work was the fastest of seven moves at the distance and the colt's first since arriving to Lexington Thursday after wintering in South Florida. Keeneland clockers timed the bay with internal fractions of :12.60, 26.20, :37.20, and :48.20 and a six-furlong gallop out of 1:12.80.
“It was a maintenance work, just what we were looking for,” trainer Ian Wilkes said. “Everything's good.”
Wilkes, who has 16 stalls at Keeneland, said he is pleased with how McCraken has adapted to his recent relocation.
“We decided to come up a bit early and get him a few works over the track here,” Wilkes explained. “I wanted to get him up here to get him acclimated, a little cooler weather. The horses love it.”
McCraken has won each of his four races, including victories in the Oct. 30 Street Sense S. and Nov. 26 GII Kentucky Jockey Club S. at Churchill Downs as a juvenile. He kicked off his 3-year-old season with a convincing 1 1/2 length tally over Tapwrit (Tapit) in the Feb. 11 GIII Sam F. Davis S. at Tampa Bay Downs, before a minor ankle strain forced him to miss his scheduled next start in the Mar. 11 GII Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby–a race that Tapwrit returned to win.
“Maybe missing that race was a blessing,” Wilkes said. “He's a different horse. He's filled out, stronger. Things happen for a reason. You may not agree at the time–you may not want it to happen. But things happen for a reason. I think he's a bigger, stronger horse right now. Just in that short time, he changed on me.”
Wilkes said McCraken will likely work again Sunday or Monday, depending on the bay's training throughout the week. The tentative plan is to keep McCraken at Keeneland through the Blue Grass and then ship to Churchill ahead of a potential bid in the GI Kentucky Derby May 6.
McCraken's older half-brother, Bondurant (War Front), also worked Monday, covering a half-mile in :48 flat in preparation for the GI Maker's Mark Mile S. at Keeneland Apr. 14. The 4-year-old recently finished a closing second in the Mar. 4 GIII Canadian Turf S. at Gulfstream Park. Wilkes added that he plans to run Sonic Boom (More Than Ready), winner of the Mar. 11 Columbia S. at Tampa Bay, in the GIII Transylvania S. at Keeneland Apr. 7, opening day of the track's 15-day Spring Meet.