Dissecting The Derby: McCraken

Dissecting The Derby: McCraken

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - No race is tougher to ferret out than the Kentucky Derby, which at times can seem as perplexing 30 minutes before post time as it is 30 days before the run for the roses.

It can look so easy after the fact, so here we helpfully tell you in advance why the winner prevails.

Of course we do it for every horse in the field -- as well as explaining why you can't possibly cash a ticket betting that horse.

So let us do the detective work as we case out the Kentucky Derby.

Owner: Whitham Thoroughbreds LLC
Trainer: Ian Wilkes
Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr.
Record: 5—4-0-1
Earnings: $410,848
Sire-dam: Ghostzapper-Ivory Empress
Fastest Bris speed figure: 99, Sam Davis
Fastest Beyer speed figure: 95, Sam Davis
Last race: Third in Blue Grass at Keeneland

Why he can win
McCraken is 3-for-3 at Churchill Downs, his home base; winning from inside and outside posts in full fields. No horse's workouts have looked better than his last two two. He is by a Breeders' Cup Classic winner in Adena Springs' Ghostzapper and out of a Seeking the Gold mare. Trainer Ian Wilkes was instrumental in the development of two Derby winners, as Unbridled's exercise rider in 1990 and the associate trainer for Street Sense in 2007, both trained by his mentor Carl Nafzger. His victory in Tampa Bay Downs' Sam Davis over Derby contenders Tapwrit and State of Honor was as promising as anything all season when looking ahead to the future. Throw out that he was third in the Blue Grass for his first defeat. He was overly keen off a two-month layoff sparked by a minor ankle issue, and as a result was closer to the pace than he'd ever been. Most importantly, he'll win because the ever-helpful auto-correct will change McCraken to McCracken in stories and headlines (see American Pharoah).

Why he won't
By an ever-so-slight amount, he still misses on the threshold for the Final Fractions Theory, which says to look for horses who finish the last eighth-mile of their final 1 1/8-mile prep in 13.0 seconds or faster and the final three-eighths in 38.0 or faster. He has been remarkably steady in his speed figures, but he'll need to make a quantum jump forward to win — otherwise some other horses are simply faster on their best day.

McCraken would be the first winner to lose for the first time in his or her career in their final prep before the Derby since the filly Genuine Risk (third in the Wood Memorial) since 1980 and only the second ever.

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