With the Jerome Stakes delayed due to freezing conditions in New York, the sport of Thoroughbred racing turned Southwest to Santa Anita to get its first taste of the Road to the Kentucky Derby this calendar year. The 2018 Sham Stakes ran on January 6th, boasting a six-horse field with one very heavy favorite.
That horse was none other than McKinzie, a now three-year-old colt who was coming off a win in the 2017 Los Alamitos Futurity. He went off as a heavy 1⁄5 favorite and did not disappoint his backers.
All Out Blitz set the pace early for the pack as a 14⁄1 longshot hitting fractions of :23.69 in the first quarter mile and :47.73 at the half-mile point. Stalking perfectly on the outside was McKinzie, who was running without blinkers for the first time to improve his awareness of the field around him. The tactic paid off handsomely as the Street Sense colt made his move at the three-quarter pole when asked for more from rider Mike Smith. The pair streamed past the pole at 1:12.17 before galloping out in dominant fashion down the homestretch.
With a winning time of 1:36.58 and heavy odds to win, McKinzie paid out just $2.40 to win. All Out Blitz was able to hold on for a very distant second place with a $7.20 and $3.80 payout to place while the highly coveted My Boy Jack was third at 6⁄1 with $2.80 to show.
Smith credited removing the blinkers for the first time in a competitive contest for McKinzie’s poise and more relaxed approach. “He was a bit too aggressive last time,” Smith added. Today he seemed to relax early, then jumped when I asked. So taking the blinkers off today, I thought we might as well try it, and I think it was a great move.”
The win solidifies McKinzie’s place as Bob Baffert’s biggest and best hope for the 2018 Kentucky Derby. Baffert was extremely pleased with the performance in the Sham Stakes saying, “He just broke, got into good position, didn’t get rank with the blinkers off. He was good, and when horses come to him, he really gets into the bridle. He got a lot out of this. Last time, he got a little tired at the end. It goes to show you the Los Alamitos Futurity was a good race. They were good horses. He came back to run like we hoped. I was happy. Everything went smooth. That’s what you want.”
McKinzie will point next to the San Felipe Stakes and is likely to be one of the bigger probable names for the Santa Anita Derby as well. Undefeated in three starts, McKinzie has earned $270,000 after being purchased for just $170,000 as a yearling. This horse has a bright, immediate future and possesses the sheer talent and closing speed to keep that star burning ferociously.
|3||All Out Blitz 14-1||$7.20||$3.80|
|1||My Boy Jack 6-1||$2.80|
|Super High Five|