March 7, 2021

McCraken gets in first of three pre-Derby Churchill works

Tuesday's work was the first of three over the Churchill strip leading up to the Kentucky Derby (Coady Photography)

Multiple graded stakes winner McCraken, who suffered his first career defeat in the Blue Grass (G2) on April 8 when finishing third, worked over the fast Churchill Downs main track Tuesday morning in advance of the May 6 Kentucky Derby (G1).

Under regular rider Brian Hernandez Jr., who chose to ride the son of Ghostzapper in the Derby over TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby (G2) winner Girvin, McCraken breezed four furlongs in :47.80. The splits were :12.60, :24.60 and :36.40. McCraken galloped out five furlongs in 1:00 and six furlongs in 1:13.40.

“He felt great,” Hernandez said. “Once he was a little settled going to the pole, he worked great. His gallop-out was very nice and he’s right back home at Churchill where he likes it.”

McCraken is undefeated in three career starts at Churchill Downs, including last November’s Kentucky Jockey Club (G2).

“The main thing is I wanted to see him finish but finish without riding himself while doing it,” trainer Ian Wilkes said. “I got everything I wanted to see today.”

Wilkes plans to breeze McCraken twice more before the Derby, the next work coming in six or seven days.