Kentucky Derby

Gulfstream Notes: Undefeated McCraken Nearing 3-Year-Old Debut

McCraken-the-kentucky-jockey-club-gr-ii-90th-running-11-26-16-r11-cd-fin-Photo Credit: Churchill Downs/Coady Photography
Churchill Downs/Coady Photography

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Janice Whitham’s homebred Grade 2 winner McCraken, undefeated in three career starts, continues to train forwardly at Palm Meadows Training Center for his 3-year-old debut, trainer Ian Wilkes said.

A bay son of 2002 Horse of the Year and 2012 Hall of Famer Ghostzapper, McCraken shows four half-mile works since mid-December at Gulfstream Park’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County, including his latest Monday morning.

“It’s amazing, isn’t it? Everyone gets excited when you have a 2-year-old turning 3,” Wilkes said. “He’s exciting. He’s a very talented horse.”

McCraken has yet to race away from Churchill Downs, where he captured his unveiling by 2 ½ lengths going 6 ½ furlongs last October before following up with a 3 ¾-length triumph in the one-mile Street Sense Stakes 28 days later.

Showing a maturity to match his talent, McCraken rallied from far back to take the 1 1/16-mile Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) Nov. 26 to close his juvenile campaign, splitting horses on the far turn and cruising to the wire 1 ¼ lengths in front.

“He’s always showed that talent in the mornings,” Wilkes said. “He’s three-for-three and done everything right. He’s doing well and, touch wood, everything’s great.”

Among the races Wilkes is considering for McCraken are Gulfstream’s series for 3-year-olds including the $350,000 Holy Bull (G2) at 1 1/16 miles and $200,000 Swale (G2) at seven furlongs Feb. 4, and the $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2) March 4, also at 1 1/16 miles.

“It just depends. We’ll see. I’ll watch and see how the track is playing. He is a bit of a closer,” Wilkes said. “Starting early next month, we’ll look for a race.”

Wilkes was pleased with another of his 3-year-olds, Creative Courage, who broke his maiden on his fourth try and first of 2017 with a front-running neck victory as the favorite in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight Saturday at Gulfstream.

“That was a nice effort. In his last race they ran by him and he came back and nearly got there. We’re very encouraged with him,” he said. “We’ll probably just come back in an allowance, one step at a time with him. He’s still learning, even though he’s run four times. He’s just getting it together. I don’t want to get in a hurry with him.”

Zulu Targeting Feb. 11 Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2)

The Todd Pletcher-trained Zulu, who made a striking comeback in the Tamarac Stakes at Gulfstream Park Dec. 18, is being pointed to the $350,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2) Feb. 11.

The 4-year-old son of Bernardini, who came off a an eight-month layoff to capture the seven-furlong Tamarac by 2 ¾ lengths, breezed an easy half-mile in 51.80 seconds at Palm Beach Downs Friday.

“We worked him by himself and just went intentionally easy – he’s not going to run until February 11,” Pletcher said. “We let him blow off a little steam, but not too much.”

Zulu, who is 3 for 4 at Gulfstream Park, is typically a high-energy horse, so Pletcher and his crew are always looking to keep the colt settled.

“Picking his head up has not been an issue; we kind of work on chilling him out,” he said. “He tends to get a little excited. We usually ship him over early and paddock school and those things. I thought he handled things really well in the Tamarac, but he’s always excited to go at it.”

The Gulfstream Park Handicap will be run at one mile on the dirt.

Also on the work tab for Pletcher at Palm Beach Downs on Friday was Theory, who was working for the first time since finishing 10th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). The

After the race, it was discovered Theory, who won the Futurity Stakes (G3) in his second start after breaking his maiden at first asking, was sick.

“Just getting him back in the groove – an easy three-eighths to try to put him on a weekly work schedule and see where he lands,” Pletcher said. “[The Breeders’ Cup] was a disappointing effort, but the following morning he had a 103 (-degree) temperature and ended up having a pretty significant lung infection. We had to leave him in California for almost four weeks before we could ship him back. He had a legitimate excuse, but it was bad timing.”

Manhattan Dan Likely for Turf Sprint on Pegasus Undercard

A new face in the Todd Pletcher barn, multiple-stakes winner Manhattan Dan is being trained toward a start in the $125,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint on the undercard of the $12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) Jan. 28.

Manhattan Dan, a 4-year-old son of Big Brown, won the Texas Glitter and Fisher Island Handicap during the Gulfstream Park Championship meet last year for a partnership group that included Platinum Seven LLC and Runner Runner Investments.

He was previously trained by Gary Contessa and was being considered for a start at last year’s Royal Ascot meet when he was injured and went to the sidelines.

“We’ve had him seven or eight weeks and he has been training really well,” Pletcher said. “He’s a nice horse.”

Manhattan Dan worked Saturday at Palm Beach Downs, covering five furlongs in 1:01.60.

Pletcher said Mucho Macho Man victor Sonic Mule is likely go back to sprinting for his next start  after stretching out to win the longest race of his young career in Saturday’s  mile stakes for 3-year-olds at Gulfstream.

“I’d lean toward backing him up in the Swale, but we’ll play it by ear,” Pletcher said. “He’s won three in a row now. He kind of got the confidence builder at Gulfstream West and then stepped up into the stake and now stepped up again with the stretch out in distance. He keeps doing everything we’re asking him to do.”

Source: Gulfstream Park

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