McCracken Pensioned, Retired to Old Friends

Grade 1-placed, multiple graded stakes winner McCraken  has been pensioned from stud duty at Airdrie Stud and will spend his retirement at Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Farm in Georgetown, Ky. The now-gelded 10-year-old son of Ghostzapper   arrived at Old Friends March 25.

“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 Bret 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.”

Airdrie has been a longtime supporter of Old Friends and previously donated grade 1 winners Afternoon Deelites and You and I in addition to grade 3 winner Patton.

“It makes all of us at Airdrie very happy to know that McCraken will live out his retirement in the best possible care,” said Jones. “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.”

Whitham Thoroughbreds bred McCraken out of the grade 3-placed Seeking the Gold mare Ivory Princess. He raced as a homebred with trainer Ian Wilkes and was undefeated at 2, getting stakes victories in the Street Sense Stakes and Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2). He was highly regarded on the Road to the Kentucky Derby after winning the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3), in which he beat future Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Tapwrit  , and finishing third in the Blue Grass Stakes (G2). He would go on to finish eighth after a rough trip in the American classic.

McCraken wins the 2017 Matt Winn (G3)
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt

McCraken wins the 2017 Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs

McCraken stayed competitive in graded company. He won the Matt Winn Stakes (G3) in his first start following the Kentucky Derby and was second by a nose to Girvin   in the Haskell Invitational Stakes (G1) at Monmouth Park. He later added thirds in the Fayette Stakes (G2) and Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap (G3).

Retired at 4, McCraken compiled a 6-1-3 record from 14 starts and earned $869,728.

McCraken’s stud career, which began in 2019, eventually got derailed by fertility issues. He did sire 51 foals of racing age from three crops that produced 24 winners. His most successful runners included stakes winners Release McCraken , who won the 2023 Texas Thoroughbred Association Derby; Una Palabra , who won the 2023 Arizona Oaks; and, Lilmorecraken , who was second in the 2023 $100,000 Miss Indiana Stakes.

McCraken’s progeny has collectively earned more than $1.8 million. He will be represented this year by two 2-year-olds—Last Colony and McKwik.

McCraken at Airdrie Stud
Photo: Courtesy Matt Wooley/EquiSport Photos

McCraken at Airdrie Stud

“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 McCraken, was a superb racing writer, and name nepotism matters. And McCraken is gorgeous.”