McCraken Rallies in Track Record Time to win Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs

McCraken made another stride towards the Kentucky Derby Saturday. The rising, talented Kentucky-bred made a magnificent move down the stretch to win the $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes in a track record time at Tampa Bay Down.

McCraken, the undefeated son of Ghostzapper, won his fourth straight race with a winning time of 1 minute 42.45 seconds. He picked up $120,000 as the top prize and broke Destin’s track record from last year which is the best 1 1/16 mile time in the Downs’ 91 year history.

Jockey Brian Hernandez, Jr. settled McCraken behind the pack five lengths off the pacesetter State of Honor, who set fractions of 23.63, :47.15 and 1:10.90 through six furlongs. When Hernandez asked McCraken to go, the strapping colt unleashed his big stride and flew home to win by 1 ¼ lengths over a late charging Tapwrit.

“Riding a horse like (McCraken) puts a lot of confidence in you, and you’ve got to go out there and ride him with the confidence we do … and he gets us there,” Hernandez said. “When I first got to the half-mile pole, I asked him for a run and he hesitated a bit. But I think it was him telling me, ‘Hey, jock, don’t worry. We’re going to get there when it’s my time.’ And he did.”

State of Honor held on for 3rd, while Wild Shot finished fourth after briefly taking the lead by a head in the stretch. Fact Finding, No Dozing, Six Gun Salute, Chance of Luck and King and His Court completed the finish.

McCraken went to post as the 3-2 favorite and paid $5, $3.60 and $2.80. Tapwrit returned $8.20 and $5.20, and State of Honor paid $6.20. The top four finishers received Kentucky Derby points on a sliding scale of 10-4-2-1.

Trainer Ian Wilkes knows has a special horse in his barn, and has been trying to downplay all the Derby talk about McCraken.

“If he’s good enough, he’ll take us there,” Wilkes said. “I don’t know how good (he is). But there have been some nice horses that have run a mile-and-a-sixteenth here.

“We’ve got a long way to go. This is not a one-race program. I want two more races for him, then the Derby. This is just one stepping stone, and we keep building.”

McCraken will build on his latest victory and success in his next race, the March 11 Tampa Bay Derby (G2).

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