McCraken Breezes ‘Very Good’ Half At Keeneland As Final Prep For Blue Grass

Whitham Thoroughbreds' homebred McCraken, the probable favorite for Saturday's $1 million Toyota Blue Grass (G2), worked a half-mile in :49.40 over a fast main track after the Sunday morning renovation break at Keeneland.

With jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. aboard, McCraken backtracked alongside a pony to the seven-eighths pole before starting his solo journey. Breaking off at the half-mile pole, McCraken posted fractions of :12.60, :25, :37 and galloped out five furlongs in 1:01.20 and six furlongs in 1:13.80.

“I thought the work was very good,” trainer Ian Wilkes said. “It was a nice half, and he galloped out strong another quarter and I was pleased with how he did it.”

It was the third Keeneland work for McCraken, who missed a scheduled start in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) because of a minor injury to his left front ankle.

“He is feeling good and his attitude is great. He is enjoying it here,” Wilkes said. “He has gotten bigger and stronger since he has been here and maybe missing that race was a blessing. Things happen for a reason and we will find out in the long run.”

For Hernandez, the work capped off a whirlwind 24 hours. Yesterday, he rode Girvin to win the Louisiana Derby (G2) then drove all night with his family from New Orleans. He arrived at Keeneland in time for the work.

“It was worth it,” Hernandez said with a laugh of the 10-hour ride. “Every rider's dream is to be in the spot I'm in.

“I'm good friends with both (connections),” he continued. “I'm happy for (trainer) Joe (Sharp), (his wife) Rosie and (owner) Brad (Grady) to win the Louisiana Derby with Girvin and then I get to come here to work a horse like McCraken.”

Hernandez likes what he has seen from McCraken, who launched his unblemished career last October and who has had Hernandez aboard for all four of his victories.

“He does everything right on cue now,” Hernandez said. “He goes around in perfect 12s (seconds for an eighth of a mile) and gets faster as he goes. He's an amazing horse.

“Last year he worked five-eighths before the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) and just went out there but now he is focused on the job like he wants to do it. I don't have to force him to do anything.”

Watch the workout here:

With Jack Gilligan aboard for trainer Kenny McPeek, It's Your Nickel worked 5 furlongs in 1:01.60 after Sunday's renovation break. Keeneland clockers caught him in fractions of :13.20, :25.40, :37.60, :50.40, 1:01.60 and out in 1:14.60. (Click here for a video of the work.)

“We were just looking for a nice maintenance work, something to keep his feet on the ground for the rest of the week,” McPeek's assistant Alan Shell said. “He finished up well, so we'll just keep an eye on him this week and should be good to go. He looks like he's handling the track well.”

By Dialed In, It's Your Nickel scored his maiden victory in August over the turf course at Saratoga in the second start of his career. He made his 2017 debut in a Jan. 27 allowance race at Fair Grounds in which he finished second but was elevated to first after the winner was disqualified. In his most recent race, It's Your Nickel drew off to a 6½-length victory in the John Battaglia Memorial on March 4 at Turfway Park.

Today's work marked the third at Keeneland for It's Your Nickel, who worked a half-mile in :47.40 on March 20 in company with Purely a Dream, who five days later won the Bourbonette Oaks (G3) at Turfway. The time was the fastest of nine at the distance.

On March 27 at Keeneland, It's Your Nickel worked five furlongs in 1:02.60 also in company.

“He's a horse who doesn't have to have company,” Shell said. “He's fit.”

It's Your Nickel races for Harold Lerner, AWC Stables, Scott Akman and Nehoc Stables.

Two other Toyota Blue Grass horses at Keeneland galloped Sunday morning.

Calumet Farm's Wild Shot galloped on the main shortly after the track opened with Jozefat Calvo aboard for trainer Rusty Arnold.

Reddam Racing's Irap made his first trip to the main track and galloped 1¼ miles under Antonio Romero for trainer Doug O'Neill. Irap went to the all-weather training track the previous two days.

Two other likely starters for the Toyota Blue Grass on Saturday – two-time Grade 1 winner Practical Joke and Tampa Bay Derby (G2) winner Tapwrit – were scheduled to arrive at Keeneland from South Florida Sunday afternoon.

The post McCraken Breezes ‘Very Good’ Half At Keeneland As Final Prep For Blue Grass appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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