USA: Kentucky hope McCraken delivers at Tampa

Leading Kentucky Derby hope McCraken broke the track record

PICTURE: Matt Wooley/EquiSport Photos Derby hope McCraken delivers at Tampa By Nicholas Godfrey 1:20pM 12 FEB 2017

Report: USA, Saturday

Tampa Bay Downs: Sam F. Davis Stakes (Grade 3) 1m½f, dirt, 3yo

WITH a powerful come-from-behind victory in the Sam Davis, McCraken (Ian Wilkes/Brian Hernandez) cemented his position as a leading contender for this year's Kentucky Derby with a track-record performance at Tampa Bay.

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The son of Ghostzapper took his unbeaten record to four with an accomplished display on his seasonal debut, sitting at the back of the main body of the field before circling his rivals on the far turn and then kicking away down the stretch.

Sent off 6-4 favourite, McCraken scored by a comfortable length and a half over Tapwrit in a time of 1m42.45s which beat the previous best for the distance set by last year's Tampa Bay Derby winner Destin.

Given that trainer Ian Wilkes had steadfastly maintained the Sam Davis was merely a stepping stone, this was an excellent performance altogether. "We've got a long way to go," said Wilkes, speaking to the Blood-Horse.

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"This is not a one-race programme. I want two more races for him, then the Derby. This is just one stepping stone and we keep building."

Also on Saturday

Gulfstream Park: Gulfstream Park Turf Hcap (Grade 1) 1m1f, turf, 4yo+

Almanaar (Chad Brown/Joel Rosario), twice a Group 3 winner at Chantilly for former trainer Freddy Head, carried Sheikh Hamdan's Shadwell silks to victory.

The 3-1 chance, produced down the outside in the stretch, scored by three-quarters of a length to record his first success in the US since leaving France. Stablemate Beach Patrol, second past the post, was demoted to fourth for interference.

Gulfstream Park: Gulfstream Park Hcap (Grade 2) 1m, dirt, 4yo+

A dominant performance from 2-1 shot Sharp Azteca (Jorge Navarro/Edgard Zayas), who sat outside Blofeld up front before striding on at halfway and winning eased down by four and half lengths. "This horse has been training like a real horse," said Navarro. "Since the day I bought him I knew I had something special here."

Santa Anita: Santa Maria Stakes (Grade 2) 1m½f, dirt, 4yo+ f/m

Another convincing victory for former Mike de Kock-trained Vale Dori (Bob Baffert/Mike Smith), kicked clear in the stretch to complete a Grade 2 hat-trick after convincing victories in the Bayakoa and the La Canada.

Santa Anita: Arcadia Stakes (Grade 2) 1m, turf, 4yo+

A repeat victory from Bolo (Carla Gaines/Mike Smith) on his first start since July following throat surgery for breathing issues.

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