Bob Baffert has yet another reason to get excited about the Road to the Triple Crown as his three-year-old trainee McKinzie won the 2018 Sham Stakes in dominant fashion.
Going off as an overwhelming favorite, McKinzie held a mark of 1/5 at the window and came through for his backers against a small field of just seven total horses. All Out Blitz took the lead early on and set the pace as a 14/1 longshot hitting fractions of :23.69 at the quarter, :47.73 at the half-mile before being caught by McKinzie at the quarter pole with a time of 1:12.17 before the eventual 2018 Sham Stakes winner rocketed down the homestretch to bury the competition.
McKinzie paid out a relatively shrewd $2.40 with the victory while All Out Blitz held on for a clear second place and was worth $7.20 and $3.80 to place. My Boy Jack delivered $2.80 as well to show with 6/1 odds.
Jockey Mike Smith was gleeful about the results in the 2018 Sham Stakes, noting the improved patience that McKinzie showed throughout the race. This is his second stakes victory in two tries after also winning the 2017 Los Alamitos Futurity. “He was a bit too aggressive last time,” Smith noted. “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.”
Running without blinkers certainly seemed to help McKinzie stay more aware of the field around him and he reacted in a calm, collected manner while storing faith in his blinding closing speed. The colt notched a winning time of 1:36.58 on a fast track at Santa Anita over the mile long distance.
“He just broke, got into good position, didn’t get rank with the blinkers off,” Baffert explained. “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.”
Purchased as a yearling for $170,000, McKinzie is a prized runner for Watson-Pegram-Weitman group that owns him. His next race is likely to be the 2018 San Felipe Stakes with a longer term target of the Santa Anita Derby in his future as well. The California side of things is dense on the 2018 Road to the Kentucky Derby, but McKinzie clearly has the potential to disrupt things at the top end of the table as we march through the winter.