One of the leading Kentucky Derby contenders earlier in the season, McCraken didn’t get the chance to show his best when being interfered with at the start of the Run for the Roses. Connections opted to use the June 17 Matt Winn (G3) on the Stephen Foster undercard as a confidence-builder and McCraken got back on track, snapping a two-race losing streak with a 2 ¼-length decision.
Trained by Ian Wilkes and ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr., McCraken settled off the pace after a slow start and blew by the competition on the far turn, seizing the lead as he turned for home. He wasn’t seriously threatened to the wire, completing the 1 1/16-mile trip in 1:42.84, and McCraken has now earned $472,228 from a 7-5-0-1.
“Today, he was kind of back to his old self where he got into a nice rhythm around there,” Hernandez said. “He wasn’t wanting to overdo it the first part and then he just kind of built his confidence up as he went.
“He went on by those horses pretty easily and thought he kind of did it the right way. You always hear it, but it was actually the perfect race that you’re looking for a horse coming back.”
Owned and bred in Kentucky by Janis Whitham, the dark bay colt won his first three starts as a juvenile at Churchill Downs, including the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) in late November. He added the Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs in his 2017 opener but sustained his first defeat when prepping for the Kentucky Derby with a third in the Blue Grass (G2) at Keeneland.
The son of Ghostzapper was favored at 1-5 over five foes in the Matt Winn.
Colonelsdarktemper wound up second, nearly a length better than Society Beau in third.
McCraken is expected to return to top-class competition in his next start, with the July 30 Haskell Invitational (G1) at Monmouth Park and August 26 Travers (G1) at Saratoga as options for the late runner.