11/10/2017 2:30PM

McCraken withdrawn from consideration for Clark Handicap

Barbara D. Livingston
McCraken, pictured at Saratoga in August, will get some time off before embarking on a 4-year-old campaign.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – McCraken has been declared from consideration for the Grade 1 Clark Handicap as a terrific cast otherwise takes shape for the showcase event of the Churchill Downs fall meet.

Trainer Ian Wilkes said he was not satisfied with a half-mile work Tuesday by McCraken, leading him to decide to turn out the colt until early next year.

“I don’t want to force anything upon him, so I think some time off will do him good,” Wilkes said.

McCraken, bred and owned by Whitham Thoroughbreds, ends the year with seven starts, with his highlights being wins in the Sam Davis and Matt Winn and a just-miss second in the Haskell. The Ghostzapper colt is being sent to Ocala, Fla., for some downtime before rejoining the Wilkes string at Palm Meadows in south Florida to embark on a 4-year-old campaign.

Meanwhile, Diversify and The Player are among the top names for the $500,000 Clark, which will be run here Nov. 24 for the 143rd time. Still, everyone is waiting to see what Bob Baffert decides to send here from his Southern California base, with Hoppertunity the most logical to make the trip. Baffert has won the Clark three times, most recently in 2014 with Hoppertunity, now 6.

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The Player, trained by Buff Bradley, won the Grade 2 Fayette on Oct. 28 over a sloppy Keeneland track over Neolithic (second), McCraken (third), and Honorable Duty (sixth and last as the favorite). The 4-year-old colt had his first breeze since that breakthrough victory when going five furlongs in 59.60 seconds here early Friday with regular rider Calvin Borel aboard.

“Calvin said it was real easy for him, that I’ve got him right where you’d want him,” Bradley said. “He’s doing super.”

Bradley said The Player likely will have a final pre-race breeze next Saturday (Nov. 18) for the 1 1/8-mile Clark. Questions surrounding the colt’s ability to get a distance were eased after his three-length Fayette score.

“You never know until they show they can do it,” Bradley said.

As for Neolithic, he will not return here from New York and will instead stay put for the Dec. 2 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct, co-owner Jack Wolf said. Honorable Duty, now 0 for 3 on off tracks, breezed a half-mile here Friday in 49.40 and is a go for the Clark.

The Clark is the highlight of a busy final weekend of the 21-day fall meet. Five other graded races will be run Nov. 23-25, including the Grade 2 Falls City on Thanksgiving Day. Pool 1 of the 2018 Kentucky Derby Future Wager also will be offered during the final four days, Nov. 23-26.