A lengthy stewards' inquiry and a jockey's objection decided the finish of Saturday's Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes. The race, offering 50 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby to the winner, certainly lived up to its billing as a contest between two of the country's top 3-year-olds.
The Bob Baffert-trained McKinzie, ridden by Mike Smith, held the lead turning for home just as Mick Ruis' Bolt d'Oro drew up alongside. The two battled all the way down the stretch, with McKinzie appearing to get out and bump Bolt d'Oro multiple times, until McKinzie gained a slight advantage and crossed under the wire a head in front. The inquiry sign was posted immediately, and Bolt d'Oro's jockey Javier Castellano filed an objection shortly thereafter.
Eventually, stewards decided to disqualify McKinzie for interference in the stretch, moving Bolt d'Oro up to be the official winner in his sophomore debut. A son of Medaglia d'Oro, his only prior defeat came when wide throughout the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. The colt is both owned and trained by Ruis, and completed the 1 1/16 miles over Santa Anita's fast main track in 1:42.71.
“I don't think the fans and everybody else could have had a better finish from the two horses they thought were going to run like they expected,” said Ruis. “Coming into this race, (he dragged them) from the receiving barn to the paddock. In the Breeders' Cup (Juvenile Nov. 4), his head came down a little bit, he didn't have as much life. The horse is good right now. Hopefully, we're moving forward and he'll be at his best in a couple months. This horse has the heart of a lion. Nine weeks ago he was undergoing a nuclear scan and here we are today. Just being within a nose of Baffert, I'm happy.”
Bolt d'Oro wins a thrilling San Felipe Stakes over McKinzie via DQ at @santaanitapark for Mick Ruis & @jjcjockey! Should McKinzie have been taken down? What is your opinion?
Continue watching LIVE #SantaAnita action all day long on https://t.co/vCZgVVRYIS pic.twitter.com/1v9LT9gJPZ
— XBTV (@WatchXBTV) March 10, 2018
There were two incidents that the stewards looked at. The first, two points of contact at the top of the lane, did not affect the final decision because stewards ruled that the video footage was inconclusive as far as determining culpability. In the second incident, which spanned the entire final sixteenth of a mile, the stewards stated that McKinzie came out two paths, pushing Bolt d'Oro off his path, which resulted in their unanimous ruling that the incident cost Bolt d'Oro his head margin of defeat. Therefore, McKinzie was disqualified to second.
“The incident inside the sixteenth pole was clear,” said steward Darrel McHargue. “McKinzie, number four, came out under a left handed whip and shifted number one, Bolt d'Oro, out, off his path and cost him a better placing. The margin of win was only a head so therefore, McKinzie was taken down.”
“Anytime it takes that long and you're the one who won, you certainly don't like it,” Smith said. “I didn't feel that I did anything. I was forced out. He hit me hard behind and it took me out. It turns you out.”
Bolt d'Oro left the starting gate fairly well, but was still a half-step behind the speedy Lombo and McKinzie heading under the wire for the first time. Lombo demanded the lead in the clubhouse turn, and took command by about a half-length over the stalking McKinzie. Aquila was three-wide to stay in the mix, and Castellano tucked Bolt d'Oro down against the rail in fourth. After solid fractions of :23.50 and :46.81, Lombo started to shorten stride a bit, allowing McKinzie to cruise up alongside the winner of the Robert B. Lewis and take the lead.
Castellano angled out to the three-path on Bolt d'Oro, sending the dual Grade 1 winner after McKinzie as the pair rounded the quarter pole. The first incident of contact occurred here, with the two colts bumping twice. They got straightened away into the stretch and were locked into battle, making the San Felipe the thrilling contest that it looked on paper.
McKinzie and Bolt d'Oro dueled the length of the stretch, and McKinzie just got his head ahead of his rival at the wire. A head-on view of the stretch run shows that McKinzie was getting out badly in the final sixteenth of a mile as jockey Mike Smith stuck with his left-handed stick, interfering with Bolt d'Oro. The stewards ruled that the interference cost Bolt d'Oro the race, so McKinzie was disqualified.
“That's some bulls***,” Baffert said after the disqualification was announced. “Javier 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. That's why they should never talk to the jockeys, just watch it themselves.”
.@ChristinaBlackr connects with Trainer Bob Baffert following the official results of the San Felipe Stakes @santaanitapark with his thoughts on the race & McKinzie's performance. pic.twitter.com/dvkeT8j5aW
— TVG (@TVG) March 10, 2018
It was at least six lengths back to Kanthaka in third, and Peace finished fourth.
“He broke really well out of the gate and put me in a good spot in the race,” Castellano said of the winner. “He broke and shot out of the gate and put me where I wanted to be. I didn't want to be too far back and I think it was a perfect ride for him. 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. I wish it would've just been the two horses running straight in the race. We were the best two horses in the race. I just want to see who the better horse is.”
Bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm, Bolt d'Oro commanded $630,000 as a yearling at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Sale, where he was consigned by Denali Stud, agent. He was shipped straight to Ruis Ranch in Montana, where he was taught to carry a rider over the trails and through the wilderness. Bolt d'Oro broke his maiden at first asking in August, then captured back-to-back Grade 1 races in the Del Mar Futurity and FrontRunner Stakes. Entering the Breeders' Cup Juvenile as the favorite, Bolt d'Oro endured a wide trip throughout and could do no better than third to Good Magic and Solomini.
He was returned to training in January with the goal of making the San Vicente his 2018 debut, but some muscle soreness delayed his training. Instead, Bolt d'Oro began his sophomore season with a hard-fought win in the San Felipe, and he is expected to run back in the Santa Anita Derby before going on to the Kentucky Derby.
“I wasn't even thinking about the inquiry the whole time,” Ruis continued. “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; we've got enough (Kentucky Derby qualifying) points (50).”
“His last work was off the chart,” added B. Wayne Hughes, owner of Spendthrift Farm where Bolt d'Oro will stand when he retires. “We were very excited going into today. Mick is a good trainer. He might be new but he's not fresh. He's got some judgment about him and I give him the credit.”
CORRECTION: The original version of this article incorrectly stated where Bolt d'Oro sold as a yearling. He was sold at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Sale by Denali Stud, agent, for $630,000.
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