Clark Handicap: The Player ‘Put It All Together,’ McCraken Withdrawn From Consideration

by | 11.10.2017 | 5:58pm
The Player gave jockey Calvin Borel his first Keeneland stakes win since 2011

Carl Hurst and William “Buff” Bradley's The Player continued his preparation for the Grade I, $500,000 Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare with a five-furlong move in :59.60 Friday morning at Churchill Downs.

The Player, under jockey Calvin Borel, clipped through splits of :24.40 and :36.20, before galloping out six furlongs in 1:12.60 and seven furlongs in 1:26.60, according to Churchill Downs' official clocker John Nichols.

This was the first timed workout for the 4-year-old Street Hero colt since he scored a three-length triumph in the Oct. 28 Fayette Stakes (GII) at Keeneland.

“That race proved what we always thought about him,” Hurst said. “He is a big horse and took some time to get things going. He really put it all together for the Fayette and I think this is the start of many successful races.”

The Clark Handicap is the most lucrative stakes race of Churchill Downs' Fall Meet. The 143rd running of the 1 1/8-mile test for 3-year-olds and up annually lures some of the top older horses in North America and is one of seven stakes events to be contested over Thanksgiving weekend. Total prize money offered throughout the meet's 221 scheduled races is a hefty $11.25 million, which averages to more than $535,000 per day.

Trainer Ian Wilkes has withdrawn multiple graded stakes winner McCraken from consideration for a start in the $500,000 Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (Grade I) on Friday, Nov. 24.

The meticulous Australian-born trainer is unsatisfied with McCraken's progression following a Tuesday breeze at Churchill Downs. Instead, Wilkes has opted to send the son of Ghostzapper to a farm in Ocala, Fla. for some rest and relaxation in advance of a 4-year-old campaign.

“I just wasn't too keen on how he breezed Tuesday,” Wilkes said. “I don't want to force anything upon him so I think some time off will do him good. We'll send him to the farm in Ocala.”

McCraken breezed a half-mile in :50.40 Tuesday, his first recorded workout since finishing third behind The Player and Neolithic in the $200,000 Fayette (GII) at Keeneland on Oct. 28. It was his seventh race this year.

Overall, McCraken has banked $722,228 for his owner/breeder Whitham Thoroughbreds LLC with a record of 10-5-1-2. At 2, he won the Street Sense and Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) at Churchill Downs. He won this year's Sam F. Davis (GIII) in his 3-year-old debut and subsequently finished third in the Blue Grass (GI) and eighth in the Kentucky Derby (GI).

After the Triple Crown series, McCraken returned to action with a victory in the Matt Winn (GIII) and a narrow loss to Girvin in the $1 million Haskell Invitational (GI) before finishing seventh of 12 in the $1 million Travers (GI) in August.

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  • Tango F

    Nice move, Wilkes … hopefully he matures and comes back strong.

  • Ida Lee

    If The Player can run as good as he looks, just give him the Clark win now …and to McCraken…if he’s not ready, he’s not ready….the plan sounds good … the Big M has had some bad luck … he’s a really good horse and with any luck, he’s going to be a standout at 4…..can’t wait to see what he does next year ….

  • Judy Gaddis

    Kudos to Mr. Wilkes! Wish more trainers would notice when their horses are not performing “just right” and give them some time off.

    • Rob B

      Horses are starting less and less. The last thing this sport needs are stake horses running 3 times a year.

  • Always Curious

    As I look at the 20 degree temperature on my thermometer, I could use some off in Ocala too!

    • OopsyDaisy3

      : ) Made me smile! We complain about the hot weather, or i do, then when the temp drops we scurry to the closet to look for the winter blankets. Linda

      • Ida Lee

        I’m always cold…..but as to McCracken…let’s be happy he’s coming back next year …..

      • Always Curious

        I need a “freshening” in a warm location for the next few months.

    • whirlaway

      Pretty chilly for sure even in November but I am not a hot weather fan so I am good.
      Was out by 9:30 today for a few errands and without wind now it was ok.

  • Judoon

    Happy that McCraken will race next year instead of being retired now!

    • ctgreyhound

      Yes it is refreshing.

  • kate.myracingheart

    Rest up crackers. Go Boo.

  • Delrene

    The Player looks absolutely amazing. Great ride in his last race with Calvin aboard. Best of luck and safe racing in the Clark Handicap.

  • TimTamTed

    Always good to hear that the horse comes first.My hat is off to Ian Wilkes.

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