As you already know, the concept of Horse Racing is to find out which horse, in any given race, is the fastest or best. It’s been that way since the first horse race was run way back in 4500 BC.
The sport has continued that way since, with a few “hiccups” in between.
Now and again, there will be a major race run where the outcome either “educates” me very little or sometimes not at all.
Such was the case this past Saturday at Santa Anita Park where co-pro tem three year old male division leaders Bolt d’Oro and McKinzie squared off in the $400,000 San Felipe Stakes, a mile and a sixteenth contest.
Bolt d’Oro, a grand looking, $630,000.00 son of Medaglia d’Oro with a very efficient stride won his first two starts impressively last year before being the recipient of nothing short of a bonehead, parking lot wide ride in the BC Juvenile, where he finished third. This colt who does very little when he is not running, other than play with a big rubber ball that hangs in front of his stall, would be making his 3 YO debut after pulling a muscle in his back earlier in the year. He is owned and trained by Mick Ruis.
McKinzie, a $170,000 colt owned by Karl Watson, Mike Pegram, and Paul Weitman, and trained by Bob Baffert, was named for longtime friend and Los Alamitos Race Course executive Brad McKinzie, who died from renal carcinoma Aug. 6 at the age of 62. The handsome colt was technically unbeaten in three starts (he finished second in the Los Alamitos Derby but was moved up to the win spot after the winner was disqualified) after winning the Jan 20 Sham Stakes.
When the gates opened for Saturday’s San Felipe, McKinzie came out running while Bolt d’Oro, like normal, hesitated for a split second.
Lombo, the speedy Robert B Lewis Stakes winner, out broke both of those two and quickly established the early lead. With Lombo showing the way early, McKinzie and jockey Mike Smith were content to lay second while Bolt d’Oro, ridden by Javier Castellano, was a couple of lengths off of them in fourth position.
The order remained the same until McKinzie, unasked by Smith, moved to and eventually overtook Lombo for the lead leaving the three eighths pole. The bay colt did it willingly and soon began putting space between himself and the rest of the field.
Castellano, sensing the race was beginning to slip away, swung Bolt d’Oro into action on the outside, asking for more from his colt and he got it.
As a team, they turned for home….
As they past the quarter pole, Smith was still sitting chilly on McKinzie (on the inside) or if I can steal a line from the track announcer who called Winx’s last race, Smith was “just sitting there like a department store mannequin” while Castellano had Bolt d’Oro in a complete, full out drive on the outside.
Castellano reached back and cracked Bolt d’Oro once, right handed with his whip, causing Bolt d’Oro to veer in, while at the same time McKinzie, who is still green, bore out ever so slightly. The two clashed (bumped) hard.
As they straightened away down the lane, it became an all out war as both colts dug in and ran their very best in nothing short of a thrilling stretch drive.
You couldn’t see it from the grandstand or camera angle, but the closer they got to the wire the more McKinzie was bearing out. This in turn forced Bolt d’Oro to run in a slight angle as opposed to dead straight.
When they hit the wire, McKinzie had half of a head in front.
The inquiry sign flashed immediately after the race as the stewards wanted to examine not one, but both incidents.
After an extended period, the stewards decided to disqualify McKinzie from first to second and move Bolt d’Oro up to first.
“The first incident—we ultimately concluded that the video was inconclusive,” said steward Scott Chaney. “It was our opinion that from the pan (replay), it appeared (McKinzie) came out to make contact. From the quarter pole (replay angle), it appeared the outside horse was actually coming in to make contact. We thought it was inconclusive as to who was culpable”….agreed Mr. Chaney….my thoughts exactly.
“Regarding the second incident, that one was obviously much easier. The videotape showed over the last sixteenth, the inside horse, McKinzie, was drifting out—probably about two paths—forcing (Bolt d’Oro) off his path, costing him the opportunity to gain the head he lost by.” Chaney said, who also added that it was a “unanimous decision by all three stewards in the office”
The connections of McKinzie were clearly unhappy with the decision:
“That last hit, where he hit me in the (butt), he turned me out,” Smith said. “I was just trying to ride my own race, and he was on top of me. At the quarter pole, after the quarter pole, and through the lane, he hit me and turned me out. I mean, he’s got the whole racetrack and he’s on top of me on the fence.”
“That’s some bull-(expletive),” Baffert said. “(Bolt d’Oro’s jockey) Javier (Castellano) had a better story, I guess. I’m shocked, after the way he hit us at the top of the stretch. I don’t know what they’re looking at, but apparently he talked them into it.”
Of course, the Bolt d’Oro’s connections were pleased with the outcome:
“I wasn’t even thinking about the inquiry the whole time,” Ruis said. “I was just so proud of Bolt, and if he got moved up, he did. This wasn’t the race we were really pointing for. We want to go to the Santa Anita Derby, but getting moved up is awesome.”
“I didn’t want to be too far back, and I think it was the perfect ride for him,” Castellano said of the trip. “I was concerned a little bit in the last part of the race, especially around the last sixteenth. I think that my horse tried to hold back to force inside, and we had some contact. They say he tried to intimidate my horse, and that is why I couldn’t get past him”.
With now some eight weeks before the Kentucky Derby, exactly where does that leave us?
I don’t know about you but it leaves me with more questions than answers….
Like say, who is better? McKinzie, who had the fitness edge, won but was taken down.
What could Smith have done differently? From what I saw, not much. He was pinned on the rail and could only use his left hand to whip, (he didn’t have room to switch hands) an action his colt clearly dislikes.
Both horses ran their lungs out, do they both improve off of this race or do one or both of them “bounce” off such taxing efforts?
Who wins the rematch in the Santa Anita Derby on April 7?
Will there even be a rematch?
After the race, when asked what would be next for McKinzie, a clearly furious Baffert said “I’m shipping McKenzie out of town for his next race”.
That’s too many question for “after” a race for my taste….
Thank for reading….