McCraken continued to distinguish himself form-wise when opening his 3-year-old season in the February 11 Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs, establishing a new track record posting a 1 ½-length victory, and the unbeaten colt finally earned a BRIS Speed rating (99) that puts him in the same ballpark with other top Kentucky Derby contenders.

Now third on the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard, McCraken launched his rally on the far turn and powered to the lead in the stretch of the 1 1/16-mile race, registering a career-best 103 BRIS Late Pace rating in the process. Brian Hernandez Jr. rides the bay son of Ghostzapper for trainer Ian Wilkes.

Speed ratings were a concern for McCraken after he dominated the competition in three starts last year, including off-the-pace wins in the Street Sense and Kentucky Jockey Club (G2). He was impressive visually but posted only 94 and 93 numbers for those respective stakes tallies.

McCraken upped his game from a Speed rating-perspective in the Davis, rallying from seventh in the early stages, but will need to keep progressing in the next two prep races. And that’s the plan according to Wilkes, who served as an assistant under Hall of Famer Carl Nafzger when he conditioned Kentucky Derby winners Unbridled and Street Sense.

“We’ve got a long way to go. This is not a one-race program,” Wilkes said. “I want two more races for him, then the Derby. This is just one stepping stone, and we keep building.”

McCraken has yet to reach to the triple-digit BRIS Speed rating threshold but it appears within the grasp of the improving sophomore.

(S V Photography)