Old Friends Welcomes Multiple Graded-Stakes Winner McCraken

GEORGETOWN, KY – March 27, 2024 – Old Friends, the Thoroughbred retirement farm in Georgetown, Ky., is pleased to announce the arrival of multiple graded-stakes winner, McCraken, to the farm for his retirement on Monday, March 26, 2024.

The 10-year old stallion was donated to the farm courtesy of Airdrie Stud, which has long supported Old Friends, and has previously donated Thoroughbreds Patton, You and I, and Afternoon Deelites to the farm.

“It is already evident to me that this well-mannered multiple stakes winner is going to be a real hit with our many visitors to Old Friends,” said John Nicholson, President and CEO of Old Friends. “We are grateful to Brett Jones and all the folks at Airdrie Stud for giving McCraken such a fulfilling retirement and a chance to be celebrated by racing fans everywhere. This is just the latest example of Airdrie’s long standing support for Old Friends and their commitment to Thoroughbred aftercare.”

“It makes all of us at Airdrie very happy to know that McCraken will live out his retirement in the best possible care,” said Bret Jones, president of Airdrie Stud. “Michael Blowen is a hero of ours and has been a wonderful friend since the earliest days of Old Friends. He began the farm with a vision and has built it into one of the most inspiring legacies in the history of our sport. Airdrie joins the Whitham and Wilkes families in thanking Michael, John Nicholson and the great team at Old Friends for giving McCraken, and all of the horses in their care, the retirement they deserve.”

Bred by Whitham Thoroughbreds, LLC, McCraken, who is by Ghostzapper, out of the Seeking the Gold mare, Ivory Empress, was foaled on April 13, 2014 in Kentucky.

Trained his entire career by Ian Wilkes for Whitham Thoroughbreds, he began his racing career with four straight wins. The first three came in 2016 as a 2-year old at Churchill Downs. In his first start, he won a maiden special weight race on Oct. 2, followed by the Street Sense Stakes (Black Type) for his first stakes win, and the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) for his first graded-stakes win.

In 2017 as a 3-year old, he continued his win streak with a win in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) at Tampa Bay where he beat future Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Tapwrit by 1 1/2 lengths.

After suffering an ankle twist in his next race, he then finished third in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2) at Keeneland on April 8, and then eighth in the Kentucky Derby (G1) at Churchill Downs on May 6.

The bay stallion bounced back strong and in his next start and won the Matt Winn Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs. He ran in three more races that year, finishing second in the Haskell Invitational Stakes (G1) at Monmouth by a nose to Girvin, seventh in the Travers Stakes (G1) at Saratoga, and third in the Hagyard Fayette Stakes (G2) at Keeneland.

He returned to the track in 2018 as a 4-year old, and won an allowance optional claiming race at Churchill Downs, which would be the final win of his career. In his next three starts, he finished sixth in the Metropolitan Handicap (G1), third in the Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap (G3) at Prairie Meadows, and sixth in the Whitney Stakes (G1) at Saratoga on Aug. 4, which would be his final race.

He closed out his racing career with six wins, one second, three thirds, and $869,728 in earnings in 14 starts.

McCraken began his stud career at Airdrie Stud in 2019 and was a successful sire. Some of his top progeny to date include stakes winner Release McCraken (three wins and $187,475 in earnings in seven starts); McCrakens Ghost (three wins, and $142,585 in earnings in nine starts); Crackalacking (two wins, and $117,245 in earnings in 10 starts); stakes winner Una Palabra (two wins and $90,980 in earnings in 11 starts); and McMoney2 (three wins, and $89,870in earnings in 14 starts).

Following his 2023 season, he was pensioned due to some fertility issues, and was then donated to Old Friends.

“Airdrie Stud, under both Brereton C. Jones and, now, Bret Jones, has been very supportive of Old Friends for two decades,” said Michael Blowen, founder of Old Friends. “Also, my colleague at The Boston Globe, Sam McCracken, was a superb racing writer and name nepotism matters. And McCracken is gorgeous.”

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