February 12th 2017 – Updated February 20th
The Kentucky Derby trail is heating up after an impressive performance yesterday in the Sam F. Davis Stakes by McCraken (shown below). McCraken set a Sam F. Davis Stakes and track record with his winning time of 1:42.45. He also beat some pretty good competition in this field from Todd Pletcher’s stable.
This is exactly the kind of performance you hope your Derby contender has coming off a significant layoff. I was somewhat skeptical that his closer racing style would work on Tampa Bay Downs track surface. But McCraken proved to me that he is a legitimate talent. I expect this colt will gain many new fans along the way and lay down some more great performances.
I still wouldn’t rank him first in my Kentucky Derby contender rankings. I need to see how Mastery performs in his first start as a 3 year-old. I also want to see how Uncontested performs on a dry, fast track at 8 1/2 furlongs. McCraken’s closing race style concerns me a little because closers typically don’t fare very well in a field of 20 in the Kentucky Derby. But read my next bit below to serve as a reminder that sometimes it works out very well. So McCraken he has to be somewhere in the Top 4 Derby contender rankings after yesterday’s performance. MCraken also has a pedigree that suggests he will like added distance and could turn out to be a star like his father Ghostzapper was if he races as a 4 and 5 year-old.
There is a ton of talent in the 2017 Kentucky Derby class. This bodes well for producing exciting Triple Crown races and for the older horse division in the future.
Less than 12 weeks away from Derby Day!
On the docket…
Southwest Stakes Preview
My preview of the Southwest Stakes can be found at https://www.usracing.com/news/analysis/southwest-stakes-trifecta-play
After the Southwest Stakes race, I will publish my next version of Kentucky Derby contender rankings.