November 30, 2023

McCraken suffers cut during Derby, bypassing Preakness, Belmont doubtful

A bumpy start to Kentucky Derby 143 at Churchill Downs on Saturday, May 6, 2017 (c) Churchill Downs/Coady Photography

McCraken exited an eighth-place run in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby (G1) with a small cut on his left hind leg, trainer Ian Wilkes reported Sunday morning.

The Ghostzapper colt was forced in when breaking from post 15, the first stall in the auxiliary gate, and was part of a chain reaction of bumping and squeezing that affected several runners.

Besides the cut, Wilkes said McCraken was doing fine Sunday morning.

“He just walked this morning,” said Wilkes, who normally jogs his horses a day after a race or work. “I didn’t want to risk the chance of infection.

“He made a nice little run and I got a little excited but then he flattened out the last little bit,” Wilkes said of the Derby. “I don’t like to make excuses. It was Always Dreaming’s day and all of us had to run over the same track.”

Wilkes indicated the Preakness was out for McCraken and the Belmont Stakes in five weeks is doubtful.

Also doing fine on Sunday was U.A.E. Derby (UAE-G2) winner Thunder Snow, who was pulled up at the start after breaking from the gate bucking and nearly tossing jockey Christophe Soumillon.

The bay colt, who was making his U.S. debut in the Kentucky Derby, was examined immediately after the race and appeared to have no injuries.

Battle of Midway, third in Saturday’s Derby, is one of several scheduled to leave Churchill Downs in the coming days.

The Smarty Strike colt exited the Run for the Roses in good order and will fly back to trainer Jerry Hollendorfer’s base in Southern California on Tuesday.

“He appears to have come back good,” said Hollendorfer’s East Coast assistant, Christina Jelm. “He ran beautifully. I think he really took to the track well. I wish I could say we won but it was nice to be in the money and hit the board.”

Hollendorfer has given the Maryland Jockey Club officials noticed that Battle of Midway was very unlikely for the Preakness.

Derby fifth-placer Practical Joke is also likely to pass on the second jewel of the Triple Crown after trainer Chad Brown said the Into Mischief colt will aim for shorter races moving forward.

“He really got a great trip from that post; (jockey) Joel (Rosario) did an awesome job (from the outside 19 post),” Brown said. “I thought he handled the conditions well. I was proud of him. He was fighting and trying.

“He just wasn’t good enough, particularly at that distance. We’ve finally seen what his limitations are. He’s a very fine racehorse; he just can’t go that far. It just wasn’t the right race for him. We’ll probably take a step back now and let him catch his breath a bit, regroup, and shorten his races.”

Gormley, ninth in the Derby, was doing fine on Sunday, according to trainer John Shirreffs, but will pass on the Preakness. Instead, his stablemate Royal Mo is headed to the second leg of the Triple Crown.

“He tried for us, but – of course – we wish he would have been able to do better,” Shirreffs said of Gormley, who will fly back to Santa Anita Park.

Trainer Graham Motion reported Derby 10th-place finisher Irish War Cry was “just fine” Sunday morning and would likely skip the Preakness on May 20.

“At the top of the stretch, I thought we were in with a really good chance. (Jockey) Rajiv (Maragh) felt like he had a lot of horse,” Motion said. “My gut tells me that he didn’t quite get the mile and a quarter. It seemed like he struggled the last part. He did seem to come out of the race just fine.

“I don’t see a lot of reason to go on to the Preakness at this point,” Motion added. “He’s had a pretty good campaign this spring, so it’s likely we’ll skip that and make a plan to point for the Haskell (Invitational [G1] at Monmouth Park on July 30).”

J Boys Echo (15th), maiden Sonneteer (16th), and Fast and Accurate (17th) also exited Kentucky Derby 143 in good order.

“He’s doing just fine. We will give him a few days and make some plans after that,” trainer Dale Romans said of J Boys Echo.

Sonneteer, who is scheduled to return to Southern California on Tuesday, could be trying a drop in class for his next start.

“How about a maiden race?” trainer Keith Desormeaux remarked when asked what’s next for the Midnight Lute colt.

“He’s good. He just did not like the surface,” assistant trainer Julie Clark stated on the Calumet homebred.

Fast and Accurate was in good shape on Sunday for trainer Mike Maker, who said that he “hadn’t spoken to (co-owner) Kendall (Hansen) yet,” on whether the gray colt would return to turf and synthetic racing this spring and summer.

Irap returned from an 18th-place run in the Derby “caked in mud,” according to assistant trainer Leandro Mora.

“He didn’t enjoy what happened at all. I don’t think he could see for much of the race,” Mora remarked. “It’s hard to be running when you can’t see where you’re going.  I think he just said ‘the heck with it.’”

The Doug O’Neill-trained Tiznow colt was quickly returned to his pristine self. Mora said they cleared mud from Irap’s eyes and gave him a long bath to get him back to feeling normal.

The Kentucky-bred is bypassing the Preakness and will be on the Tuesday flight back to Southern California.