Examining the Pedigree: Does McCraken Have What it Takes to Win the Derby?

McCraken will race in the Kentucky Derby on May 6 at Churchill Downs. Photo Credit: Coady Photography/Churchill Downs

“I knew him when” are some famous last words. Everyone likes to say they know people who become famous before everybody else. In our line of work, everyone likes to say they knew a horse before he or she blows up. I know I wasn’t first in line to “know” a horse before McCraken, but on the evening of Oct. 30, 2016, I was ahead of most. The eight losing trainers in the Street Sense Stakes also knew.

Ghostzapper, arguably the best horse since Spectacular Bid, won from 6.5 furlongs to 1 ¼ miles approaching or setting track records all along the way. He excelled at distance races like his sire, Awesome Again. However, he had a bit more speed that came through his dam, Baby Zip.

As a sire, Ghostzapper has sired a champion sprinter and champion horses that run a route of ground. He has already sired 53 black type winners of over $53 million. Ghostzapper even has $10 million in progeny earnings on the turf. What is missing from this picture… a sharp 2-year-old with Kentucky Derby aspirations.

McCraken had to keep stretching out to make a serious run at the roses. On Nov. 26, McCraken checked another box by winning the two-turn Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs. Now, the pressure would be on for all of the connections.

“No pressure!” I say. Let’s look into McCraken’s pedigree to see how ten furlongs might suit this colt. In his first three generations, there are seven sires, four of which won races at 1 ¼ miles in top company. That includes three Breeders’ Cup Classic winners! Three others won nine-furlong races on Saturday afternoon. The only sire that lacks this route racing success is just Mr. Prospector. Oh, well.

McCraken’s female ancestors bring just the right amount of class to the party. Ivory Empress earned her best black type while running second in Delaware Park’s Endine S. Certainly not the Kentucky Oaks, but don’t forget that Arrogate’s dam, Bubbler, won her biggest race in the Distaff S. at Sam Houston.

I’m proud to say I knew McCraken before he blew up. His pedigree says yes. I like him on May 6.

Rob Murphy is the owner of M375 Thoroughbreds, Inc.

The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds
  • Rob Murphy

    Rob Murphy

    A horse racing and thoroughbred enthusiast, Murphy has devised his own method for handicapping and breeding. Murphy's company, M375 Thoroughbreds, Inc., has bred, raised and raced successful horses such as Platinum Tiara, Swing and Miss, Diamond Studs, Strike Three and Golden Spikes. Murphy is a former Major League Baseball player. ...

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