Trainer Ian Wilkes felt relieved on Sunday morning following his promising 2-year-old McCraken’s victory in the $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club (Grade II) on Saturday evening, which made the son of Ghostzapper an undefeated 3-for-3.
“It’s a relief,” Wilkes said. “With the anticipation and hype around a 2-year-old, you don’t want to let anyone down and you always want him to run well. He made real good progression (Saturday), so it’s a good relief and we’re just happy to see the horse win. He looked good (Sunday) morning. He jogged and was bucking and playing around.”
Named after a small town in central Kansas, McCraken entered his Kentucky Jockey Club victory off a win in the Street Sense Overnight Stakes The week leading up to the race, Wilkes had been saying that McCraken would have to work for a win and he did just that having to fend off a challenge from eventual runner-up Wild Shot.
"He needed a little test,” Wilkes said. “He had to really run (Saturday), they didn’t hand it to him. It wasn’t easy. He came through for us. He had to really belly down and run so that was good.”
McCraken was just one of three graded stakes winners at Churchill Downs for Wilkes on Thanksgiving weekend. On Thursday, Wilkes won the $100,000 River City Handicap (GIII) with Thatcher Street and the following day gave Linda her first graded stakes win in the $200,000 Mrs. Revere (GII).
“It would be nice to have this type of weekend every weekend,” Wilkes said. “We got (four) horses running (Sunday) so it’s back to the real world.”
Perhaps not for long. This week Wilkes and wife Tracey will be leaving for their native Australia to vacation for a few weeks.
“It’ll be nice to go back home and see the family,” Wilkes said.
Nine vans are scheduled to transport 64 of Wilkes horses, including McCraken, to Palm Meadows in south Florida on Tuesday – the same day the couple leaves for a vacation that lasts through Dec. 22. While out of the country, Wilkes has deputized Hall of Fame trainer Carl Nafzger to care for his contingent. This will be the Wilkes’ first trip back home to Australia in seven years.
CATALANO THINKING KENTUCKY OAKS WITH GOLDEN ROD WINNER FARRELL – Trainer Wayne Catalano believes that he has a legitimate Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) contender on his hands following a decisive win with Farrell in the Golden Rod (GII) on Saturday, and will likely map out a plan that involves racing her at Fair Grounds.
"That’s the plan,” Catalano said. “She’ll probably go to Fair Grounds for the winter. I’ll see what the best route to go is. I’ll map it out with owners and talk to those guys. We’ll sit down and make a plan and see what the best way to get to that race is. When we got her, I thought that she was going to be my Breeders’ Cup (Juvenile Fillies) filly. We just couldn’t get there in time. If she would’ve run like the way she did (Saturday) she would’ve galloped in the Breeders’ Cup.”
Prior to the Golden Rod, the daughter of Malibu Moon finished third in the Rags to Riches Overnight Stakes behind Lovely Bernadette, who ran fifth in the Golden Rod.
GUEST SUITE AVOIDS McCRAKEN; WINS ALLOWANCE – William S. Farish and Mrs. William S. Kilroy’s Guest Suite was successful when taking a drop in class in Saturday’s 10th race, a first-level allowance event that was won by 2015 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) third-place finisher Dortmund two years ago.
Prior to his 6 ¼-length romp on Saturday, the son of Quality Road finished third behind McCraken in the Street Sense Overnight Stakes on Opening Day of the Fall Meet.
“You always hope with these 2-year-olds,” trainer Neil Howard said. “He’s got a long way to go but he ran well. I was really happy, I’m thrilled. We’ll get down to New Orleans and see what happens. I’ll talk to (jockey) Robby (Albarado) and see what he thinks.”
BROCKTON GEORGE SWITCHES TO THE TURF; BREAKS MAIDEN – Fern Circle Stable’s Brockton George’s switch from the main track to the turf was a successful one as he broke his maiden on the second attempt after finishing second in his career debut on Nov. 6 behind Resiliency.
The Florida-bred son of Harlan’s Holiday was entered as an also-eligible for Saturday’s race but drew in when McCormick had scratched from the race.
“He’s a really good colt,” McPeek said. “The only reason he ran on the grass (Saturday) is because he had already started here so he didn’t have a good date to get in on the dirt again and he was going to get excluded from the dirt division. So I said, ‘Let’s go ahead and try him on the grass, a good horse will run well on anything.’ Not sure where we’ll run him next, maybe some 3-year-old preps right away.”
SINGLE 6 JACKPOT CARRYOVER OF $173,889 WITH MANDATORY – There’s a 20-day carryover of $173,889 in the 20-cent minimum Single 6 Jackpot for Sunday, and because it’s closing day, there is a mandatory payout. The sequence, which features a low 15-percent takeout, covers Races 7-12 starting at 3:57 p.m. EST and the money will be distributed to ticket holders with the most winners.
KENTUCKY DERBY FUTURE WAGERS CLOSE SUNDAY – The first pools of the 2017 Kentucky Derby Future Wager opened Thursday and will close Sunday (today) at 6 p.m. (all times Eastern).
The traditional pool with 23 individual wagering interests and an “all others” option return, and so has the Kentucky Derby Sire Future Wager, which debuted last year and requires bettors to wager on the winning sire for next year’s Kentucky Derby winner.
The field for Pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager (with morning line odds): Beach Bum (#1, 15-1), Classic Empire (#2, 8-1), Fact Finding (#3, 20-1), Gormley (#4, 20-1), Gunnevera (#5, 15-1), Hemsworth (#6, 30-1), Hookup (#7, 50-1), #8 Irish War Cry (#8, 50-1), Just Move On (#9, 20-1), Klimt (#10, 15-1), Lookin At Lee (#11, 30-1), Mastery (#12, 12-1), McCraken (#13, 15-1), Mo Town (#14, 30-1), No Dozing (#15, 50-1), Not This Time (#16, SCRATCHED), Practical Joke (#17, 15-1), Running Mate (#18, 50-1), Saint’s Fan (#19, 50-1), Syndergaard (#20, 15-1), Takaful (#21, 30-1), Uncontested (#22, 30-1), Wild Shot (#23, 50-1) and “All Others” (#24, 5-2).
The field for the Kentucky Derby Sire Future Wager (with betting number and morning line odds): Bernardini (#1, 15-1), Bodemeister (#2, 20-1), Candy Ride (ARG) (#3, 15-1), Curlin (#4, 15-1), Distorted Humor (#5, 20-1), Flatter (#6, 30-1), Gemologist (#7, 20-1), Ghostzapper (#8, 15-1), Giant’s Causeway (#9, 12-1), Harlan’s Holiday (#10, 20-1), Into Mischief (#11, 20-1), Kitten’s Joy (#12, 20-1), Malibu Moon (#13, 20-1), Medaglia d’Oro (#14, 15-1), Pioneerof the Nile (#15, 12-1), Scat Daddy (#16, 20-1), Speightstown (#17, 20-1), Tapit (#18, 10-1), Tiznow (#19, 30-1), Unbridled’s Song (#20, 30-1), Uncle Mo (#21, 15-1), Union Rags (#22, 15-1), War Front (#23, 15-1) and “All Other Sires” (#24, 8-1).
The complete schedule for Future Wager dates: Pool 1 and Sire Future Wager, Nov. 24-27; Pool 2, Jan. 27-29; Pool 3 and Oaks Future Wager, Feb. 24-26; and Pool 4, March 31-April 2.
DOLLAR BEER FROM 3-6 P.M. – As a special thank you to on-track guests throughout the year, Churchill Downs will conclude the 21-day Fall Meet with $1 draft beer from 3-6 p.m. on Sunday.
MILESTONE WATCH – According to Equibase, jockey Jon Court entered Sunday’s action two wins shy of 4,000 career wins. He is scheduled to ride Quarterly (15-1) in Race 3, The Gipper (9-5) in Race 8 and Detroit Cowboy (20-1) in Race 9.
MEET LEADERS – Heading into closing day, Corey Lanerie, Mike Maker and Ken and Sarah Ramsey appear to be champion jockey, trainer and owners of the Fall Meet, respectively.
- Jockeys – Corey Lanerie entered Sunday with a 29-24 lead over Brian Hernandez Jr., while Julien Leparoux was third with 23 wins. This would be the 12th riding title for Lanerie, which would tie him with Hall of Fame jockey Don Brumfield for the second most local riding championships behind 34-time Hall of Fame legend Pat Day. Lanerie, who is ranked 17th nationally in money-won with more than $8.7 million this year, won five allowance races – Alotta Skirt, December Seven, Tiz Trevor, Unbridled Outlaw and Rhythm Park – and prevailed with seven maiden special weight victors – One of a Kind, Southern Wild, Izzy the Warrior, Silver Dust and Saturday’s 2-year-old winners Lucy Goosey, Brockton George and Young American. He will be saluted Sunday in the G.H. MUMM Winner’s Circle after Race 7, which has a post time of 3:57 p.m.
- Trainers – Mike Maker is safe to win his sixth Churchill Downs training title – and fourth during the Fall Meet. He entered Sunday with a 15-10 lead over Ian Wilkes and was ranked sixth nationally in money-won on the year with more than $10.8 million. Brad Cox is third with nine trips to the winner’s circle. Eight of Maker’s 15 wins came on turf, and his victors included allowance winners Partly Mocha, Shadow Rock, Southern Gem and Touch of Bling. He will be saluted Sunday in the G.H. MUMM Winner’s Circle after Race 8, which has a post time of 4:27 p.m.
- Owners – Ken and Sarah Ramsey made a clean sweep of the Churchill Downs leading owner’s titles in 2016. They began Sunday with a 6-4 lead over Maggi Moss. Brad Kelley’s Calumet Farm, Joey Keith Davis, Michael Hui, Steve Landers Racing, Millard R. Seldin Revocable Trust and Janis R. Whitham’s Whitham Thoroughbreds had three wins each. This will be the Ramsey’s record-extending 28th Churchill Downs title and fourth in a row. They’ve won an unprecedented 460 career races beneath the Twin Spires, more than double than their nearest competitor, Overbrook Farm’s 206. His winners included allowance winner Partly Mocha and maidens Love the Kitten and Pay the Kitten. They will be saluted Sunday in the G.H. MUMM Winner’s Circle after Race 8, which has a post time of 4:27 p.m.
- Money – The potent trio of Whitham Thoroughbreds LLC, trainer Ian Wilkes and jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. enter closing day atop the Fall Meet leaderboard in money-won. They teamed to win the $83,470 Street Sense Overnight Stakes and $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) with McCraken and $200,000 Mrs. Revere (GII) with Linda, and finished second in the $100,000 Commonwealth Turf (GIII) with Bondurant and third in the $200,000 Falls City Handicap (GII) with Walkabout. The Whithams entered Sunday with $332,575 at the meet ahead of Winchell Thoroughbreds’ $294,500. Wilkes, who also won the $100,000 River City Handicap (GIII) with Thatcher Street and finished third in the $200,000 Chilukki (GII) and $200,000 Mrs. Revere (GII) with Sweetgrass and Sweet Tapper, respectively, had earned $700,447 compared to Steve Asmussen’s $581,080. Hernandez banked $1,223,762 versus Corey Lanerie’s $1,030,253. Hernandez was aboard each stakes winner trained by Wilkes, and also piloted 3-year-old filly Finley’sluckycharm to a pair of victories, including Friday’s 8 ½-length romp in the $82,400 Dream Supreme Overnight Stakes. He also is the regular rider of Dallas Stewart’s promising 2-year-old Saint’s Fan.