McCraken opens his 3-year-old campaign in Saturday’s Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs, squaring off against eight rivals in the Kentucky Derby qualifier worth a combined 17 points (10-4-2-1 scale). The Ian Wilkes-trained colt established himself as a top contender for 2017 when completing a perfect juvenile season with a 1 ¼-length tally in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) in late November.
A bay son of Ghostzapper, McCraken will make his first start outside of Churchill Downs in the 1 1/16-mile race and connections hope to avoid the same fate of early Kentucky Derby favorite Classic Empire, who faltered as the odds-on choice in the Holy Bull (G2) at Gulfstream last weekend.
McCraken has rallied to win all three starts comfortably and can enhance his reputation against several well-meant opponents in the Davis. He will break from post 8 with regular rider Brian Hernandez Jr.
Fact Finding scratched from the Holy Bull for the Davis and brings a 3-for-3 mark into his graded stakes bow. Trained by Todd Pletcher, who sent out Destin to wins in the Davis and Tampa Bay Derby (G2) last year, Fact Finding exits a seven-length romp in the one-mile Smooth Air at Gulfstream that netted a field-best 101 BRIS Speed rating. John Velazquez will be along for the mount aboard the gray son of The Factor.
Pletcher is also responsible for Tapwrit, a one-length winner of the off-the-pace Pulpit in his last outing. The gray Tapit colt was flattered when runner-up Master Plan came back to easily capture the recent OBS Championship and Jose Ortiz takes over the reins aboard the $1.2 million yearling purchase.
Wild Shot brings speed to the equation. By Trappe Shot, he set the pace when recording a respectable third at 42-1 odds in his stakes debut, the Breeders’ Futurity (G1), and followed with a good second in the Kentucky Jockey Club. Robby Albarado will be in from Fair Grounds to ride the Rusty Arnold trainee.
No Dozing also displayed promise last year, finishing fourth in the Breeders’ Futurity before offering a solid rally for second in the Remsen (G2). The son of Union Rags registered a commendable 98 BRIS Speed rating last time and Daniel Centeno keeps the mount for Arnold Delacour.
Completing the Davis field are Mucho Macho Man runner-up State of Honor and Canadian stakes winner King and His Court from the Mark Casse stable; and Chance of Luck and Six Gun Salute, who finished second and fifth respectively in the January 21 Pasco at Tampa.