USA: McCraken out to boost Kentucky Derby claims

McCraken: leading Kentucky Derby hope makes three-year-old return on Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs

McCraken: “When you work him, he feeds your confidence”

  PICTURE: Matt Wooley/EquiSport Photos  

Preview: USA, Saturday 9.45pm GMT (live on ATR)

Tampa Bay Downs: Sam F. Davis Stakes (Grade 3) 1m½f | dirt | 3yo

Leading Kentucky Derby contender McCraken (Ian Wilkes/Brian Hernandez) makes his three-year-old debut in a hot-looking renewal of the Sam Davis at Tampa Bay.

The late-running son of Ghostzapper was unbeaten in three starts last term at Churchill Downs, culminating in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes in November.

“There are those anxious moments as you wait to see them run, but this horse feeds your confidence,” Wilkes said, speaking to the Blood-Horse. “When you work him, he feeds your confidence. I’m feeling good because he’s taken me where I want to go so far.

“He’s right where I want him to be for his first run back, and this is not the end goal. This is not the pot at the end of the rainbow, but it’s a start.”

Rivals include Remsen Stakes runner-up No Dozing (Arnaud Delacour/Daniel Centeno) and Fact Finding (Todd Pletcher/John Velazquez), who is also unbeaten in three and bypassed last weekend’s Holy Bull to wait for this.

Sam Davis – Ladbrokes: 5-4 McCraken, 9-2 Fact Finding, 5 Wild Shot, 11-2 No Dozing, 12 Tapwrit, 14 State Of Honor, 20 King And His Court, 33 Chance Of Luck, 100 Six Gun Salute

Also on Saturday

Gulfstream Park: Gulfstream Park Turf Hcap (Grade 1) 1m1f | turf | 4yo+ (9.34pm GMT, live on ATR)

Last year’s winner Lukes Alley (Josie Carroll/Luis Saez) bids for a repeat in this $350,000 event but will need to turn around recent course form with Flatlined (Scooter Dickey/Joe Bravo). Secretariat Stakes victor Beach Patrol (Chad Brown/Florent Geroux) also features.

Gulfstream Park: Hardacre Mile Gulfstream Park Hcap (Grade 2) 1m | dirt | 4yo+ (10.05pm GMT, live on ATR)

The Coolmore team will have high hopes for Zulu (Todd Pletcher/Javier Castellano), who is three from four at Gulfstream, where he successfully returned after an eight-month layoff in December.

His trainer, who has won three of the last four runnings of this race, also saddles impressive Hal’s Hope winner Tommy Macho (Luis Saez). Blofeld (Rusty Arnold/Jose Lezcano) has left Pletcher since winning this in 2016. Sharp Azteca (Jorge Navarro/Edgard Zayas) was runner-up in the Grade 1 Malibu over Christmas.

Santa Anita: Santa Maria Stakes (Grade 2) 1m½f | dirt | 4yo+ f/m (10pm GMT)

Former Mike de Kock-trained Vale Dori (Bob Baffert/Mike Smith) gives 4lb to five rivals as she bids to complete a Grade 2 hat-trick after convincing victories in the Bayakoa and the La Canada.

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Classic Empire is recovering after popping a foot abscess on his off-fore following his disappointing reappearance at Gulfstream Park last weekend, after which he lost his status as Kentucky Derby favourite.


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