McKinzie, who officially is three for three, and Mask, who is two for two, both were impressive when victorious last weekend.
Winner of Saturday’s Grade III Sham at Santa Anita Park, McKinzie has established himself as one of the leaders of the 3-year-old males in California. Mask now is regarded as one of the top 3-year-old males in Florida after winning Saturday’s Mucho Macho Man at Gulfstream Park.
Bob Baffert, a four-time Eclipse Award winner and a member of the Hall of Fame, trains McKinzie. Chad Brown, voted a 2016 Eclipse Award and favored to take home a second such trophy for 2017, is in charge of Mask.
McKinzie and Mask rank one-two in my first Kentucky Derby Top 10 of 2018:
- Bolt d’Oro
- Good Magic
- Instilled Regard
- Principe Guilherme
- Untamed Domain
- Firenze Fire
Baffert trains both No. 1 McKinzie and No. 5 Solomini. Brown conditions both No. 2 Mask and No. 4. Good Magic.
McKinzie, a $170,000 auction purchase, won a seven-furlong maiden special weight race by 5 1/2 lengths at Santa Anita Park on Oct. 28 in his career debut. Next, the Kentucky-bred colt finished second but was placed first through the disqualification of Solomini in the Grade I Los Alamitos CashCall Futurity at 1 1/16 miles on Dec. 9.
After McKinzie recorded a 99 Beyer Speed Figure in his maiden triumph, he regressed to a 92 at Los Alamitos. But even though he won the Los Al race via DQ, McKinzie actually ran quite well all things considered.
Baffert was not particularly happy to see McKinzie become headstrong early and race so close to the pace on the backstretch. Unfortunately, when Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith was trying to get McKinzie to relax nearing the clubhouse turn, Runaway Ghost came charging up to the inside of McKinzie. Entering the turn, Runaway Ghost came out and bumped McKinzie, according to Smith. Smith felt that messed the race up tactically in terms of what he had wanted to do. It got McKinzie keyed up and close to the pace, as opposed to not so close to the pace and relaxed.
McKinzie battled for the lead around the far turn, then kept on battling for command all the way down the exceedingly long Los Alamitos stretch while racing to the inside of Instilled Regard. With only one sprint race under McKinzie’s belt, he certainly had every right to weaken late after having run so hard pretty much from the get-go.
With both McKinzie and Instilled Regard rubber-legged in deep stretch, Solomini mowed them down to prevail by three-quarters of a length. McKinzie edged Instilled Regard by a head for second. However, during the stretch run, Solomini had come in and bumped Instilled Regard coming to the sixteenth pole. For that incident, the stewards disqualified Solomini and placed him third, behind Instilled Regard.
With the goal to try and get McKinzie to relax better in the early going, Baffert removed the blinkers for last Saturday’s Sham. McKinzie settled beautifully early in fourth this time, took the lead at the top of the stretch and kicked clear to win by 3 1/2 lengths while completing one mile in 1:36.58. He moved back up in the Beyer Speed Figure department to a 97.
According to the American Racing Manual, these are the Beyers for winners of the Sham going back to its inaugural running in 2001:
2017 McKinzie (97)
2016 Collected (81)
2015 Calculator (98)
2014 Midnight Hawk (95)
2013 Goldencents (98)
2012 Out of Bounds (99)
2011 Tapizar (98)
2010 Alphie’s Bet (86) synthetic footing
2009 The Pamplemousse (107) synthetic footing
2008 Colonel John (86) synthetic footing
2007 Ravel (104)
2006 Bob and John (102)
2005 Going Wild (100)
2004 Master David (100)
2003 Man Among Men (100)
2002 U S S Tinosa (98)
2001 Wild and Wise (97)
McKinzie is by the Street Cry stallion Street Sense. Street Cry has sired two of the greatest female Thoroughbreds of all time in Zenyatta, America’s 2010 Horse of the Year, and Australian superstar Winx, who has won 22 consecutive races. Zenyatta was inducted into our Hall of Fame in 2016. Even though Winz has not been retired from racing, she was inducted into Australia’s Hall of Fame in 2017, only the third horse to earn this honor in that country while still in training.
Street Sense won the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs in 2006. He then returned to the Downs the following spring to capture the Grade I Kentucky Derby. That, I believe, was an especially strong crop of 3-year-olds in 2007 that also had in it the likes of Curlin (Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old male of 2007), Rags to Riches (champion 3-year-old filly of 2007 after becoming the first of her sex to win the Grade I Belmont Stakes in 102 years), Hard Spun, Any Given Saturday and Daaher.
MUCHO THE BEST IN MUCHO MACHO MAN
Making only his second career start, Mask was dazzling in the Mucho Macho Man. He won the one-mile affair around one turn by 6 1/2 lengths while finishing “under wraps,” as the official Equibase chart states.
A $685,000 auction acquisition, Mask made his first career start in a 6 1/2-furlong maiden special weight. He raced fifth early after a tardy start. When Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano was pumping his arms pretty good on the Kentucky-bred Tapit colt around the far turn, Mask did not readily respond. But once in the stretch, he came home with gusto to win by three widening lengths and galloped out strongly after the finish.
In contrast to his career debut, Mask broke alertly in the Mucho Macho Man. He set a moderate pace, posting early fractions of :24.43 and :48.13. This time, in contrast to Mask’s career debut, Castellano’s hands were quite still as they raced around the far turn. None of the other six runners was making a serious move even though all of those jockeys were riding hard.
Mask steadily drew away in the stretch. When Castellano took a look back at the sixteenth pole and saw no dangers, he allowed Mask to canter the rest of the way home. The final time was 1:37.65. Mask recorded a 91 Beyer Speed Figure, up from the 88 in his first race. Mask’s Mucho Macho man is another one of those races in which I put a + alongside his 91 because he won with speed to spare.
BOLT D’ORO EYEING SAN FELIPE
Daily Racing Form’s Steve Andersen reported an encouraging update concerning Bolt d’Oro. Ranked No. 3 on my Kentucky Derby Top 10 list, the Kentucky-bred Medaglia d’Oro colt has resumed training after recovering from a pulled muscle, According to owner-trainer Mick Ruis, Bolt d’Oro “is likely” to make his 3-year-old debut in Santa Anita’s Grade II San Felipe at 1 1/16 miles on March 10, then run in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby at 1 1/8 miles on April 7.
“Bolt d’Oro was briefly taken out of training to undergo tests after the colt showed signs of distress in his hind end,” Andersen wrote. “He was cleared to resume training after a nuclear scan showed no problems. Ruis said Bolt d’Oro may have become cast in his stall.”
Ruis said he had to be cautious.
“You don’t want [him] to gallop if he’s a little stiff,” Ruis said, adding Bolt d’Oro could have his first workout of the year within two weeks.”
The pulled muscle caused Ruis to abandon plans to run Bolt d’Oro in Santa Anita’s Grade II San Vicente Stakes at seven furlongs on Feb. 10.
Bolt d’Oro won last year’s Grade I Del Mar Futurity and Santa Anita’s Grade I FrontRunner. Undefeated in three starts going into the Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar, he was sent off as the 3-5 favorite in the Juvenile and finished third after a ridiculously wide trip. He is one of three finalists for a 2017 Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male, along with BC Juvenile winner Good Magic and BC Juvenile runner-up Solomini.
PRINCIPE GUILHERME HEADS LECOMTE
Mask is by Tapit. So is Principe Guilherme, who is undefeated and untested in two career starts and the 5-2 morning-line favorite in the Grade III Lecomte at New Orleans’ Fair Grounds this Saturday.
Principe Guilherme, a $600,000 auction purchase trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, is No. 7 on my first Kentucky Derby Top 10 list of the year. The Lecomte also has attracted Instilled Regard, who I have at No. 6. Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer trains Instilled Regard.
Instilled Regard, not Principe Guilherme, comes into the Lecomte with the best last-race Beyer Speed Figure. Instilled Regard, a $1,050,000 auction buy, recorded a 92 when he finished third and was elevated to second in the aforementioned Los Alamitos Futurity.
Principe Guilherme posted a 91 Beyer when he won an allowance/optional claiming race at the Fair Grounds on Dec. 16. However, in fairness to Principe Guilherme, he won that race by 11 3/4 lengths while just cruising, whereas Instilled Regard was all out in the Los Al Futurity.
I will be surprised if someone other than Principe Guilherme or Instilled Regard wins the Lecomte.
Meanwhile, Firenze Fire, who is No. 10 on my Kentucky Derby Top 10 list, makes his initial start of 2018 in Aqueduct’s Grade II Jerome at one mile. The Florida-bred Poseidon’s Warrior colt won the Grade I Champagne last Oct. 7 (defeating subsequent Grade I BC Juvenile winner Good Magic and subsequent Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club winner Enticed) before finishing seventh in the BC Juvenile in his final 2017 start.
CATCHING UP WITH WOODMANS LUCK
Woodmans Luck achieved a measure of notoriety when he won Race 11 at Hollywood Park on Dec. 22, 2014. That, some may recall, was the final race ever run at that track.
Hollywood Park is no more, but Woodmans Luck is still racing. In fact, the now 10-year-old California-bred gelding finished third for a $3,200 claiming price in a race at one mile and 70 yards just last week on New Year’s Day at New Orleans’ Fair Grounds.
Woodmans Luck is by Lucky Pulpit. So is California Chrome, who now is trying to make a name for himself as a sire after an outstanding racing career in which he earned $14,752,650 and Horse of the Year titles in both 2014 and 2016.
While Woodmans Luck has come nowhere close to banking $14,752,650, he still has done pretty darn well. He’s managed to earn $518,025 while posting 13 wins, 19 seconds and 12 thirds from 78 lifetime starts.
Woodmans Luck began his racing career for his breeders, Mr. and Mrs. Larry Williams, at Hollywood Park on May 9, 2010, finishing fifth in a 4 1/2-furlong maiden special weight race. Mike Puype trained him at that time. Woodmans Luck’s first career victory came in a 6 1/2-furlong maiden special weight affair at Hollywood Park later that year on Oct. 10.
When Woodmans Luck won the final race ever run at Hollywood Park, Vladimir Cerin trained him for owners Holly and David Wilson. (Don’t you think it’s rather fitting that the final horse to ever win at “Holly”-wood Park was co-owned by “Holly” Wilson?) When Woodmans Luck raced last week, he did so for co-owners Michelle Lovell and Scott Margo. Lovell now conditions the chestnut gelding.
Woodmans Luck now has made at least one start per year for nine consecutive years. The itinerant Thoroughbred has raced at a total of 16 different tracks (Del Mar, Canterbury Park, Churchill Downs, Fair Grounds, Ellis Park, Hollywood Park, Indiana Grand, Keeneland, Kentucky Downs, Laurel, Lone Star Park, Louisiana Downs, Oaklawn Park, Remington Park, Sam Houston Race Park and Santa Anita Park).
As for the Hollywood Park site where horses used to race, construction is coming along on the state-of-the-art, $2.6 billion stadium that will be shared by the Rams and Chargers starting with the 2020 season. Once completed, the stadium is scheduled to host the Super Bowl in 2022, the college football championship game in 2023 and the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2028 Olympics.