Hernandez High on McCraken
McCraken (in photo) worked a half-mile in :49.40 over Keeneland's main track after the Sunday morning renovation break with regular rider Brian Hernandez Jr. aboard.
McCraken backtracked alongside a pony to the seven-eighths pole before starting his solo journey. Breaking off at the half-mile pole, McCraken posted fractions of 12.60, 25.00 and 37.00 and galloped out five furlongs in 1:01.20 and six in 1:13.80.
“I thought the work was very good,” trainer Ian Wilkes said. “It was a nice half, and he galloped out strong another quarter and I was pleased with how he did it.”
It was the third Keeneland work for McCraken.
“He is feeling good and his attitude is great. He is enjoying it here,” Wilkes said. “He has gotten bigger and stronger since he has been here, and maybe missing (the Tampa Bay Derby after a reported mild ankle sprain) was a blessing. Things happen for a reason, and we will find out in the long run.”
For Hernandez, the work capped off a whirlwind 24 hours. Yesterday, he rode Girvin to win the TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby, then drove all night with his family from New Orleans. He arrived at Keeneland in time for the work.
“It was worth it,” Hernandez said with a laugh. “Every rider’s dream is to be in the spot I’m in. I’m good friends with both. I’m happy for connections) to win the Louisiana Derby with Girvin and then I get to come here to work a horse like McCraken.”
Hernandez likes what he has seen from McCraken, who has had Hernandez aboard for all four of his victories in as many starts.
“He does everything right on cue now,” Hernandez said. “He goes around in perfect 12's and gets faster as he goes. He’s an amazing horse. Last year he worked five-eighths before the Kentucky Jockey Club and just went out there, but now he is focused on the job like he wants to do it. I don’t have to force him to do anything.”
It's Your Nickel
With Jack Gilligan aboard for trainer Ken McPeek, It’s Your Nickel worked five furlongs in 1:01.60 after the renovation break. Keeneland clockers caught him in fractions of 13.20, 25.40, 37.60 and 50.40, and out six furlongs in 1:14.60.
“We were just looking for a nice maintenance work, something to keep his feet on the ground for the rest of the week,” McPeek’s assistant Alan Shell said. “He finished up well, so we’ll just keep an eye on him this week and should be good to go. He looks like he’s handling the track well.”
By Dialed In, It’s Your Nickel scored his maiden victory in August over the turf course at Saratoga in the second start of his career. He made his 2017 debut in a Jan. 27 allowance race at Fair Grounds in which he finished second but was elevated to first after the winner was disqualified. In his most recent race, It’s Your Nickel drew off to a 6 1/2-length victory in the John Battaglia Memorial on March 4 at Turfway Park.
Today’s work marked the third at Keeneland for It’s Your Nickel, who worked a half-mile in :47.40 on March 20 in company with Purely a Dream, who five days later won the Bourbonette Oaks at Turfway. The time was the fastest of nine at the distance. On March 27 at Keeneland, It’s Your Nickel worked five furlongs in 1:02.60, also in company.
“He’s a horse who doesn’t have to have company,” Shell said. “He’s fit.”
Wild Shot, Irap
Two other Toyota Blue Grass horses at Keeneland galloped Sunday morning.
Wild Shot galloped on the main shortly after the track opened with Jozefat Calvo aboard for trainer Rusty Arnold.
Irap made his first trip to the main track and galloped 1 1/4 mile under Antonio Romero for trainer Doug O’Neill. Irap went to the all-weather training track the previous two days.
Two other likely starters for the Toyota Blue Grass, Practical Joke and Tapwrit, are scheduled to arrive at Keeneland from South Florida Sunday afternoon.
Edited Keeneland release