Toyota Blue Grass hopeful McCraken works at Keeneland

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Whitham Thoroughbreds’ undefeated graded stakes winner McCraken, who arrived at Keeneland on Thursday to begin preparations for the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass (G2) on April 8, worked five furlongs in one minute flat Monday with jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. aboard. The time was the fastest of seven works at the distance.

Keeneland clockers caught McCraken in fractions of :12.60, :26.20, 37.20, :48.20 and 1:00 and galloping out in 1:12.80.

“It was a maintenance work, just what we were looking for,” trainer Ian Wilkes said. “Everything’s good.”

McCraken has won all four of his races, taking the Kentucky Jockey Cub (G2) and Street Sense at Churchill Downs last year. On Feb. 11, he scored a 1½-length victory in the Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs in his 2017 debut. A minor ankle strain kept the colt from his next scheduled start in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) on March 11.

“Maybe missing that race was a blessing,” Wilkes said. “He’s a different horse. He’s filled out, stronger. Things happen for a reason. You may not agree at the time; you may not want it to happen. But things happen for a reason. I think he’s a bigger, stronger horse right now. Just in that short time, he changed on me. Maybe (missing the race) was a good thing.”

Wilkes has 16 stalls at Keeneland, where his horses were among the first to arrive when the main stable area opened March 16. He also has a string at Churchill, where he said McCraken will head after the Toyota Blue Grass.

“We decided to come up a bit early and get him a few works over the track here,” Wilkes said about McCraken’s schedule. “I wanted to get him up here to get him acclimated, a little cooler weather. The horses love it.”

Wilkes said McCraken likely would work again Sunday or Monday. “We’ll see how he does through the week,” he said.

On Monday, McCraken’s year-older half-brother, Bondurant, also worked, covering a half-mile in :48. Wilkes is aiming the son of War Front, second in Gulfstream’s Canadian Turf (G3) on March 4, at the $300,000 Maker’s 46 Mile (G1) at Keeneland on April 14.

Another Wilkes runner at Keeneland is Lothenbach Stables’ stakes winner Sonic Boom, who is to run in the Transylvania (G3) Presented by Keeneland Select on April 7, opening day of the Spring Meet.

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