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Kentucky Jockey Club Preview: McCraken Looks to Build Resume

Emily Shields
Emily Shields

Whitham Thoroughbreds LLC’s unbeaten McCraken, an impressive winner of the Street Sense on the opening day of the Fall Meet, will attempt to keep his spotless racing record intact when he steps up to graded stakes competition and takes on 11 rivals in the 90th running of the $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (Grade II) for 2-year-olds on Saturday, Nov. 26 at Churchill Downs Racetrack.
 
The race is part of the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points series that determines the eligibility of horses to compete in the maximum field of 20 horses that will contest next spring’s 143rd running of the $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) on Saturday, May 6. The top four finishers in the Kentucky Jockey Club will earn points on a 10-4-2-1 scale in a race that in 2015 served as a stepping stone for four horses that would compete in this year’s Kentucky Derby: runner-up Mor Spirit (10th in the Derby), third-place finisher Mo Tom (eighth in the Derby); fourth-place finisher Gun Runner (third in the Derby), and eighth-place finisher Tom’s Ready (12th in the Derby). 
 
The Kentucky Jockey Club produced recent Kentucky Derby winners in WinStar Farm’s Super Saver, who won both races for trainer Todd Pletcher in 2008 and ’10, and Mike Pegram’s Real Quiet, the runner-up in the 1997 Kentucky Jockey Club who returned to win the Derby for trainer Bob Baffert the following spring.
 
The 1 1/16-mile race on the main track shares the spotlight with the $200,000 Golden Rod (GII) for juvenile fillies on the track’s popular “Stars of Tomorrow II” racing program devoted exclusively to races for 2-year-old Thoroughbreds. Post time for the first of 12 races on Saturday is 1 p.m. (all times EST) and the Kentucky Jockey Club is scheduled to be the 11th race with a post time of 5:56 p.m. The Golden Rod will be the day’s ninth event with a post time of 4:57 p.m.

Top Choice

#3 Wild Shot – When if comes to two year old class this horse has a lot of it!  Two races back Wild Shot beat Warrior’s Club who came back to win a stakes race, and two races back he lost by only four lengths to Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Classic Empire and only one length behind Lookin at Lee who finished fourth in that same Breeders’ Cup race.  In that last race he also defeated Gunnevera who came back last weekend to win the Grade 3 Delta Downs Jackpot in stylish fashion.  The level of horses this horse has ran with towers every other horse in the field.  For that reason, and the fact he probably won’t be the favorite, makes him very appealing today.

Horses to Use in Multi Race Wagers

#11 McCracken – This will by the hype horse and likely favorite after his impressive win in the local prep race for this last time out.  I’m a little skeptical as to how tough that race was last time out, but this horse certainly passed the eye ball test in that race so that makes him a must play in the multi race and exotic wagers.  I’m going to take a small shot against him in the win bet department, but that is no knock on the horse.  It’s very possible he could win this race and become the next big thing heading into his 3 year old year.  This will be a proving ground today.

#12 Uncontested – This might be a really solid horse in the making!  He’s only run in one race, but it was an amazing six length victory over a hyped Asmussen horse who came back to win next time out.  That win came in a maiden special weight at Keeneland going six and a half furlongs so this two turn stretch out is the major question mark today.  It’s possible he’ll be better sprinting, but the talent shown in his first race makes him playable.  Expect him to go straight to the lead under Channing Hill for that outside post, and we’ll see how far he can take them.

Exotic Plays

#9 Warrior’s Club – I’m unsure if he’s shown enough to consider on the win end of things, but hitting the board doesn’t seem out of the question here as his speed figures can at least hang with this group.  Last time out he impressively won a restricted stakes as a maiden.  The two races prior to that win he ran well in maiden special weights, but was defeated by solid horses, one of which is Wild Shot who is my top pick in this race.  We’ll see how he matches up here…wouldn’t be afraid to play underneath.

Party Crashers

#7 Shareholder Value – Interesting entry here for tough Churchill Downs connections, and the breeding (by Uncle Mo) is very solid.  He made two turf starts to kick off his career and didn’t show us a ton, but last time out switched to turf and dusted a maiden special weight field.  That maiden race was run over a sloppy surface though, so if the track is rated fast he’s still a question mark.  However, there are enough positives to give this horse a shot at what should be a decent price.

#1 Han Sense – Sneaky entry here for Mike Maker as we all saw him pull off a big upset with this horses sire, Hansen, who defeated Union Rags in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile a few years back.  Han Sense hasn’t shown the talent level of his sire just yet, but he is classy and has ran second behind some nice horses in his last two races.  He’ll need to be double digit odds to play, but if he floats up there in price he isn’t the worst long shot to play here.

Throw Outs

#4 Romeo O Romeo – Will be making his first dirt start after running consistently on turf and synthetic.  If the dirt improves him he has a shot, but still may not be good enough to win.

#2 Total Tap – Strong Churchill Downs connections, but the horse hasn’t shown near enough to back him today against this tough field.  Had a nice maiden special weight win on turf, but on the dirt he was fourth in an allowance race that didn’t come back that strong.

#5 Silent Decree – Was thrashed by McCracken last time out, and his only win came on a track labeled “wet fast.”  Will need to improve today to hang with the top few in this race.

#6 Just Move On – Woke up a bit last time out for an impressive, but I’m skeptical he can repeat that kind of effort against this caliber of horse.

#8 Joker Justice – Takes a major jump up in class today after running in Ohio for all of his career.  Decent horse, but this task is too tough for him.

#10 Perro Rojo – Looks overmatched by all accounts today as he’s been beaten badly in his last two races which were both against stakes company.

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