Racing without blinkers, Karl Watson, Mike Pegram, and Paul Weitman's McKinzie was the consummate professional in Saturday's Grade 3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita. The 3-year-old son of Street Sense sat off the pace under Mike Smith, then drew even with the frontrunner All Out Blitz at the head of the lane. McKinzie, named for long-time Los Alamitos executive Brad McKinzie, pulled away with ease and crossed the wire 3 1/2 lengths in front while well in-hand. The Bob Baffert trainee covered one mile over the fast main track in 1:36.58, earning 10 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.
“He's getting better as he matures,” Smith said. “He ran a tremendous race in only his second time out last time at Los Al. The horses he ran with that day were top horses and we thought he'd move forward off of that race and he did today.”
McKinzie broke on top of the six-horse field of sophomores, but the speedy All Out Blitz came up the rail to take the lead. Shivermetimbers joined those two to make it a three-way battle for the front, but Smith took a slight hold of McKinzie and the colt immediately eased back and relaxed.
All Out Blitz ended up with a one-length lead over Shivermetimbers, while My Boy Jack raced along the rail in a joint third with McKinzie. That order remained largely unchanged through fractions of :23.69 and :47.73.
Smith gave McKinzie an inch of rein rounding the far turn and the colt responded willingly, ranging up on the outside of the leading All Out Blitz. Shivermetimbers could not go with those two, but All Out Blitz still held a slight lead at the top of the stretch.
Angling his colt directly alongside All Out Blitz, Smith drove McKinzie for the lead change and asked him to move on. McKinzie jumped into the bridle and quickly put two lengths on his rival, then continued to draw away down the stretch to cross the wire about 3 1/2 lengths in front. All Out Blitz fought on to retain second, while My Boy Jack got up over Shivermetimbers for third.
“He came back to run like we hoped,” Baffert said. “I was happy. Everything went smooth; that's what you want. I don't have to work him that much before the next one. I don't know (which race it will be). It could be the San Felipe (Grade II, $400,000, 1 1/16 miles March 10). We'll try and get two (races) into him. I think he showed more maturity today. We sort of had had to rush into his earlier races.”
Bred in Kentucky by Summer Wind Farm, McKinzie was a $170,000 Keeneland September sale purchase. On debut in late October, McKinzie stylishly won by 5 1/2 lengths at Santa Anita. Returning to the races in December, he was moved up on the disqualification of Solomini to win the G1 Los Alamitos CashCall Futurity. Now undefeated in his three lifetime starts, McKinzie has earned a total of $240,000.
McKinzie boasts 20 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, placing him second in the early stages of the points leaderboard. He is behind just Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Good Magic, who has 24 points. Bolt d'Oro and Solomini are in a joint third with 14 points each.
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