McCraken to miss Tampa Derby with minor injury

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. -- McCraken, the unbeaten colt who ranks as the favorite for the May 6 Kentucky Derby, will miss his next scheduled prep race, the March 11 Tampa Bay Derby, after sustaining what trainer Ian Wilkes described as a "very minor" injury to his left front ankle.

All was fine for McCraken following a Monday breeze at the Palm Meadows training center, but "we noticed he was a little off this morning," Wilkes said Tuesday.

"We X-rayed it and he's clean, so that's good," Wilkes said. "But I just want to give him a little time for the ankle to flatten down. We'll use poultice and ice and everything and see how he does, and hopefully he'll get back to the track soon enough."

Wilkes said the plan now is to go straight to the April 8 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland for a final prep for the Derby.

"I needed another work for him to make the Tampa race," said Wilkes. "Obviously we can't do that, so we'll regroup and point for the Blue Grass. It's such a short window that we'll need everything to go just right, but I always want to do right by the horse. I can't stress that enough."

Owned and bred by Whitham Thoroughbreds, McCraken is unbeaten in four starts. He won the Feb. 11 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa in his 3-year-old debut in track-record time. He figured to be an odds-on choice for the Grade 2, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby at 1 1/16 miles.

In Pool 3 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager held last weekend, McCraken closed at 6-1, the lowest odds of any individually listed interest. The mutuel field, the 24th or all others choice, was a lukewarm 5-1 favorite.