Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert will have two horses at Parx Racing Saturday that have much to prove. And he thinks both of them have a chance to do just that.
Baffert has two high-profile horses making their first starts after long layoffs. McKinzie, once considered to be the favorite for the Kentucky Derby before being KO'd by a left hind injury, will make his first start since March 10 when he enters the Parx starting gate as the 5-2 morning line favorite in the Grade I, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby.
Collected a 5-year-old, makes his first start since a seventh place finish in the Pegasus World Cup Jan. 27 on Saturday as the 6-5 morning line favorite in the $150,000 Pa Derby Champion Stakes.
Both horses will be ridden by jockey Mike Smith.
Baffert had high hopes for McKinzie, who won three of his first four starts. In his last one, the Grade II San Felipe at Santa Anita on March 10, McKinzie won but was disqualified and placed second behind Bolt d'Oro. After that race, his leg injury was discovered and he has been on the equine disabled list since.
He returned to the work tab at Del Mar in August and has had nine works since. Baffert says he is ready.
“He was like, the best 3-year-old in the country,” Baffert said. “He has shown me how good a horse he is in the mornings. We are still very high on him. Hopefully, he will break well and we will see if he still has it.”
Baffert said he does not worry about McKinzie's inactivity because he is confident in the horse's ability. He said the son of Street Sense has enough foundation underneath him to come back strong.
“He had some hard races,” Baffert said. “You can't bring a boxer who is 28 years old and make him a champion. They have to do it earlier. That is why I feel pretty good about him. (Pennsylvania Derby) was the last possible chance to run vs straight 3-year-olds.”
Collected never had any apparent physical problems after the disappointing run in the Pegasus.
Baffert gave him time off after the race, his first of 2018. He had won four of six starts as a 4-year-old, including a win over his much hyped stablemate Arrogate in the Pacific Classic.
“He is going to have to run hard, we know that,” Baffert said. Baffert who won't be at Parx Saturday and will remain in California. His longtime assistant, Jimmy Barnes is here to saddle the horses.
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