04/26/2017 11:00AM

Kentucky Derby pedigree analysis: McCraken

Barbara D. Livingston
McCraken, training at Churchill Downs on Monday, is a son of Horse of the Year Ghostzapper, who won the Breeders' Cup Classic at the Derby distance of 1 1/4 miles.


Ghostzapper-Ivory Empress, by Seeking the Gold

(Bred in Kentucky by Janis Whitham)


McCraken suffered the first loss of his career when he finished third in the Blue Grass Stakes, but he has turned in two solid works since returning to his home base at Churchill Downs, where the Kentucky Derby looms ever-closer. The son of 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper sports some variety in his pedigree, but overall has a solid lineage for middle distances and beyond.

Ghostzapper was known for brilliant speed that he could carry a distance. During a six-race win streak from 2003-05, he won Grade 1 events from the 6 1/2 furlongs of the Vosburgh Stakes to the 1 1/4 miles of the Breeders’ Cup Classic. His other top-level wins during that span included the Woodward Stakes, over a future fellow Horse of the Year in Saint Liam, and the Metropolitan Handicap.

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Versatility has been a hallmark of Ghostzapper’s stallion career, with runners excelling in sprints and routes on a variety of surfaces. He is the sire of Eclipse Award female sprinter Judy the Beauty and Grade 1 winner Paulassilverlining, a finalist in that same division last year. He also is the sire of Za Approval, a Grade 1 winner on turf. More importantly for McCraken, Ghostzapper has successfully turned out high-quality route horses, most recently this year’s Santa Anita Handicap winner Shaman Ghost, already a Canadian classic winner and winner of last year’s Woodward.

Ivory Empress never won beyond 6 1/2 furlongs, although she is a half-sister to Grade 1-winning router Mea Domina. Ivory Empress, whose career was highlighted by a second in the Grade 3 Endine Stakes going six furlongs at Delaware Park, also is the dam of Grade 3-placed turf router Bondurant.

The late Seeking the Gold is the broodmare sire of Eclipse Award champions Blame, Questing, She Be Wild, and Take Charge Brandi, and of many Grade 1/Group 1 winners, including Majestic Warrior, Warrior’s Reward, and Lord Nelson.