Trainer Ian Wilkes

Gene McLean (right) and Trainer Ian Wilkes talk about McCracken. Photo courtesy Aaron Bacon.

Every day, we scour the work tabs at racetracks all over North America, searching for horses that are working with a purpose, energy and desire towards their next appointed rounds on the racetrack in the afternoons.  Some of the horses we track, you will know.  They are household names.  Some of the horses we track, though, you may not know — yet.  But you may want to know before they are household names.  Here is a closer look at today’s work tab:

  1. McCraken, the ultra-talented 3YO son of Ghostzapper, worked the best we’ve seen of him since his stale performance in the G1 Travers Stakes at Saratoga; and on a track that he apparently didn’t like one bit.  He breezed 5Fs this morning at Churchill Downs in 1:00.20, which was the fastest time of 34 to go that distance over the dirt track.  From all appearances sake, it looks like McCraken — who started this year undefeated as a 2YO and winner of the Sam Davis at Tampa — is close to getting back to the same form as when he won the Matt Winn at Churchill Downs in the summer and nearly pulled off the G1 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park.  When healthy and happy, this guy is as talented as any 3YO in the country.  And, he has been expertly handled by his trainer, Ian Wilkes.  When contacted this morning, Wilkes texted: “Worked good.” According to the trainer, if all goes well, the colt will now be pointed to the G2, $200,000 Hagyard Fayette at Keeneland on the closing day — Oct. 28.  That Stakes is for 3YOs & Up going 11/8 miles. It will mark McCraken’s first visit to Keeneland since he ran third this Spring in the Blue Grass Stakes, behind Irap and Practical Joke — two 3YO colts who have had very good years. McCraken went into the Blue Grass Stakes after having missed the Tampa Bay Derby due to a wrenched ankle sustained in a training move there.
  2. Battle of Midway, who ran third in this year’s Kentucky Derby and most recently has a win and a second in two stakes after being equipped with blinkers, is now being primed for the Breeders’ Cup Mile by trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.  The 3YO colt breezed 5Fs this morning at Santa Anita, going the distance in 1:00 flat, which was the fastest time of the day out of 14 to work that distance on the dirt surface.  Keep an eye on this one.  He may be a surprise at Del Mar.
  3. It Tiz Well, who defeated Kentucky Oaks winner Abel Tasman in the Pennsylvania Oaks in their last matchup, worked 5Fs at Santa Anita this morning, too, for Hollendorfer.  She covered the distance in 1:01.40, which was the 5th fastest time.  This filly was dusted by Elate in the G1 Alabama, after she set most of the fractions that day at Saratoga.  But her win in the PA Derby was visually impressive, and she looks like a better version of the filly that won the G3 Honeybee at Oaklawn Park this spring.  She started the year known only as Unique Bella’s stablemate.  But this one may grab headlines on Breeders’ Cup Day, too.