for McKinzie, poetic justice

Sometimes, the only justice you find is poetic justice.

And, so it is with McKinzie.  He came into the San Felipe Stakes with an undefeated record, clouded by a great big asterisk.  After all, he didn’t cross the wire first in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) last year.  He ran on well enough inside in the stretch that day, but could not , but got bumped up after Solomini was taken down for interfering with third-place Instilled Regard.  Solomini wasn’t losing that race no matter what, and would Instilled Regard have been second and not third after Solomini bumped past?  Though he was no match for the first horse across the wire, McKinzie was going well enough that I’m not convinced he would have.  Caught in the middle of a dubious disqualification, McKinzie got lucky.

Three months and a day later, McKinzie got unlucky.

He turned for home inside Bolt d’Oro.  They bumped once.  Perhaps McKinzie went out a touch, but Bolt d’Oro perceptibly came in.  Their withers met, but it looked a product of racing in tight quarters, more than anything.  It diminished the fight of neither.  Bolt d’Oro forced his head in front; McKinzie came back.  As the field neared the wire, McKinzie did come out, pushing Bolt d’Oro out with him.  But — did it cost him a better placing?  Inconclusive, and judging from how McKinzie and Bolt d’Oro were each going late, unlikely.

A photo showed McKinzie’s nose across the wire first in the San Felipe, but the inquiry light blinked.  4-1 blinked.  And blinked, and blinked, and blinked.  Then, it became 1-4.  The blinking ceased.  McKinzie, so lucky three months back, ran out of luck this time around.

We can call Bolt d’Oro the big winner here, and Solomini the big loser.  But, as it shakes out, McKinzie is exactly where he should be: three-for-four lifetime.  Poetic justice.

America’s Best Racing: Big Race Showdown, Gotham/San Felipe/Tampa Bay Derby

This is week six of Big Race Showdown at America’s Best Racing: where I clash heads with six awesome handicappers (Emily GulliksonCandice HareDan TordjmanBrian ZipseEric Bialek, and Mark DiLorenzo) to see who can stay the hottest through Derby prep season.

This week is a huge one, with three stateside Kentucky Derby preps: the Gotham (G3) at Aqueduct, the San Felipe (G2) at Santa Anita, and the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) at Tampa Bay Downs.  Come see what we all think…and let’s see if I can add to my win, exacta, and trifecta tallies!

Picks and Ponderings: 2018 San Felipe Stakes Preview

The San Felipe Stakes (G2) will be run for the 81st time this year.  It is a Road to the Kentucky Derby race, with not only a $400,000 purse up for grabs but also 50, 20, 10, and 5 Kentucky Derby points available to the top four finishers.  Originally inaugurated in 1935 for colts and geldings aged three and up, the race was restricted to three-year-olds starting in 1941, and opened up to fillies as well starting in 1952.  Run at distances as short at six furlongs during its history, it has held steady at its current 1 1/16 mile distance since 1952.  Over the history of the San Felipe Stakes, five winners have gone on to win the Kentucky Derby later that year: Determine (1954), Affirmed (1978), Sunday Silence (1989), Fusaichi Pegasus (2000), and California Chrome (2014).  Bob Baffert has been the most successful trainer of all time in the San Felipe.  He has won the race six times, most recently with Mastery (2017).

Keep reading at Picks and Ponderings, and let me know your thoughts on the San Felipe (G2) in the comments!

Picks and Ponderings: a busy week on the Oaks trail

This Saturday features four different three-year-old preps at three different tracks: three Kentucky Oaks prep, and a Kentucky Derby prep as well.

Over at Picks and Ponderings, I preview all four of the points races:  the Fountain of Youth (G2) and the Davona Dale (G2) at Gulfstream, the Busher Stakes at Aqueduct, and the Santa Ysabel (G3) at Santa Anita.

Read my previews, and let me know your thoughts in the comments.  Good luck this weekend!

America’s Best Racing: Big Race Showdown, Holy Bull S. and Robert B. Lewis S.

It’s time for the second week of Big Race Showdown at America’s Best Racing!  The panel is full of sharp horse racing minds: Emily GulliksonCandice HareDan TordjmanBrian ZipseEric Bialek, and Mark DiLorenzo.

This week, we take a look at a pair of Kentucky Derby preps, one on each coast.  Head over to ABR, and see who we like for the Holy Bull and the Lewis!

Picks and Ponderings: 2018 Las Virgenes Stakes Preview

In a week of three-year-old preps that already took us to AqueductGulfstream, and Santa Anita on Saturday, we return to Santa Anita on Sunday for the day’s lone sophomore points race, the Grade 2 Las Virgenes Stakes.  The dirt mile drew a field of six fillies to contend for their share of a $200,000 purse, as well as the typical early-season complement of Road to the Kentucky Oaks points (10-4-2-1) for the top four finishers.

The Las Virgenes has been run at a mile on the main track at Santa Anita since its inception in 1983.  It was first graded in 1985, upgraded to a Grade 2 in 1987, a Grade 1 from 1988 through 2015, then has since been run as a Grade 2.  Its winners have gone on to the heights of success over the years — even since the race’s recent downgrade.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of the Las Virgenes Stakes, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Picks and Ponderings: 2018 Robert B. Lewis Stakes Preview

Picks and Ponderings‘s coast-to-coast coverage of three-year-old points races continues here, with the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita.

This year marks the 80th running of the Robert B. Lewis Stakes.  Previously the Santa Catalina Stakes, it was renamed in 2007 for Robert B. Lewis (1924-2006).

The race has been restricted to three-year-olds since 1964.  It has produced two Kentucky Derby winners: Ferdinand (1986) and I’ll Have Another (2012).  This race was also the first stakes win for both Sham (1973), famously second behind Secretariat in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, as well as 1999 Champion Sprinter Artax (1998).

Read my latest at Picks and Ponderings, see my thoughts about the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Picks and Ponderings: 2018 Santa Ynez Stakes Preview

Saturday’s card at Santa Anita features the first chance for the Derby-bound to get points in 2018, with the Grade 3 Sham Stakes.  Sunday, however, is all about the fillies: the day’s feature, the Grade 2 Santa Ynez Stakes, is the first Kentucky Oaks points race of the year.

As with so many stakes races at Santa Anita, this race takes its name from a place on the map.  Santa Ynez, California, a valley town about 135 miles northwest of Santa Anita racetrack.  Inaugurated in 1952 as a six-furlong sprint, it has varied in distance between six and a half furlongs and seven since 1954.  Through most of its recent history it has covered seven furlongs; for 2012-2016 it shortened up to six and a half, but last year it returned to its current trip.  In addition to shares of a $200,000 purse, the Santa Ynez also offers Road to the Kentucky Oaks points, apportioned 10-4-2-1 to the top four finishers.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of the Santa Ynez Stakes, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Picks and Ponderings: 2018 Sham Stakes Preview

Thoroughbred racing has concluded at Hawthorne, not to return until late March.  With that, Picks and Ponderings will be casting its eyes afield, focusing most strongly on the three-year-old prep season.

The Jerome, originally scheduled for New Year’s Day, was supposed to be the first race on the Derby Trail this year.  However, bitter cold and snow have delayed Aqueduct’s first points race of 2017; that race will likely be run next weekend.  Instead, the first points of the year will be up for grabs this Saturday at Santa Anita, in the Sham Stakes (G3), which we preview in detail right here.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of the Sham Stakes, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Picks and Ponderings: 2017 Malibu Stakes Day Preview

After a quiet week and a half in Southern California, the Santa Anita winter meet opens up on Tuesday, December 26 at Santa Anita.  The opening day card features a four-pack of stakes: opening-day mainstays the Malibu Stakes (G1), La Brea Stakes (G1), and Mathis Brothers Mile (G2) for sophomores, as well as the newly moved San Antonio Stakes (G2) for the handicap division.

Here, Picks and Ponderings looks at all four of these stakes races in detail.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of Tuesday’s four stakes at Santa Anita, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!