McCraken Debuts at #1 in HRI’s Derby Power 10
OLDSMAR, FL, Feb. 12, 2017—Judging by yesterday’s sweeping turn move that has become his signature since he began distance racing last fall, it doesn’t appear that trainer Ian Wilkes will be able to lower expectations wherever his undefeated McCraken shows up next.
In extending his undefeated career slate to 4-for-4, the son of Ghostbuster, from the Seeking the Gold mare, Ivory Empress, powered passed eight rivals and to the top slot of the Kentucky Derby Power 10 in HorseRaceInsider’s initial 3-year-old poll of 2017.
His narrow margin over last week’s impressive Holy Bull Stakes winner, Irish War Cry, gives every indication that this is going to be a highly contentious playoffs run as sophomore racers prepare for the “mile and a quarter without any water” on May’s first Saturday.
With the exception of seventh-ranked Gunnevera, who took a few starts before getting his act together and his races lengthened, the other 10 runners on the list—there was a tie for last slot between Uncontested and Practical Joke—are a combined 15-for-19 lifetime.
Doing a wonderful impression of two-time champion Songbird, the difference these between these magnificent speedy fillies is that, unlike Songbird, Unique Bella is a Triple Crown nominee. What they have in common is, at this point in their respective careers, Mike Smith had not let either filly strut their best stuff.
The HRI Poll is a consensus of staffers Tom Jicha and Mark Berner, devoted horseplayer and fan, regular contributor Indulto, and the site’s executive editor.
The rankings are an amalgam of accomplishment and promise in the eye of the handicapper, and points are compiled on a 12 points for each voter’s top selection, then graded on a 9-8-7 etc…etc. basis from second through 10th position.
HRI’s Kentucky Derby Power 10, Week 1:
1-McCRAKEN (39): Wilkes indicated after Saturday’s Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Memorial that McCraken will have three preps for the big dance, the second most likely back in Oldsmar for the Tampa Bay Derby.
2-IRISH WAR CRY (36): Graham Motion sees that there’s no rush to get out of South Florida so the colt is staying put for the time being. Not likely to run in both the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby, but one never knows.
3-MO TOWN (28): Yet to race this year, Tony Dutrow is contemplating either the Gotham at the Big A or the Risen Star in NOLA. Thought his stock might have dropped some with No Dozing’s woeful season’s debut in the Davis. Great in the paddock, he got a little hot exiting the ring.
4-CLASSIC EMPIRE (26): Mark Casse showed us photos he took on his phone of the hoof area affected by the abscess he raced with in the Holy Bull; it was ugly! After the pocket burst two days later, he was fine and is reported back to himself. Fountain of Youth is back on the table.
5-MASTERY (21): He’s undefeated, it’s Baffert, and whatever Bob wants, Bob gets. The San Felipe is the likely and logical target next out. The “King of the Audibles” will decide. Huge upside potential.
6-EL AREEB (18): He’s done lots of good work already. We don’t see him running in both remaining New York preps, but you never know? He’s outclassed rivals in each start this year.
7-GUNNEVERA (13): He fought the dynamics and classy Irish War Cry and was a gallant runnerup. If they both make the Derby, would love to see this colt and McCraken launch at the same time on the far turn. They sweep like they were trained by Lombardi.
8-GORMLEY (11): Interesting that John Shirreffs has two—two shots in one Derby, and like so many of the country’s top barns, it will be different roads to get to the same destination—if either he or Royal Mo prove worthy, of course.
9-UNIQUE BELLA (10): The lone chink in the armor is that she's not the world’s sharpest breaker away from barrier, but she’s so fast and such an imposing beast that it’s impossible to envision her being intimidated. But, like the horseman say, they must prove it. Extraordinarily gifted.
10-UNCONTESTED (9-tie): Being fast and talented are two weapons you want most and he has those qualities in ample supply. Worked lights out this weekend and an eagerly awaiting his second start of the season.
10-PRACTICAL JOKE (9-tie): He shows the same characteristic in every start; he wants to beat you. One of the hardest trying juveniles we can remember, more than just brilliant. Chad Brown, who doesn’t speak idly, says he’s training up a storm. I believe him.
Also getting votes: American Anthem, Battalion Runner, Royal Mo, Tapwrit, Three Rules
Written by John Pricci - Comments (16)