McKinzie Demoted to Second
Commentary by Dick Downey
The San Felipe Stakes turned into a thrilling stretch battle between two top horses that was exciting to watch. The experience was ruined for many fans after stewards reversed the order of finish by disqualifiying the winner, McKinzie, and placing Bolt d'Oro first.
Lombo, who finished last of the seven runners, started the race in first and soon withstood heavy pressure from McKinzie and Mike Smith that lasted through six furlongs run in fractions of 23.50, 46.81 and 1:11.34. Bolt d'Oro, who was fourth by three lengths in the first turn, was only a length behind after six furlongs.
At that point, the field was heading into the far turn, and the race turned into a contest between the two favorites. McKinzie was inside, and Bolt d'Oro, ridden by Javier Castellano, was outside.
As they left the turn in a sudden driving rain, Bolt d'Oro came in on McKinzie, knocking him toward the rail. McKinzie recovered and led by a head with a furlong left. From there, McKinize drifted out a couple of paths while under left-handed urging by Smith and hit the wire a head better than Bolt d'Oro in a time of 1:42.71.
Stewards flashed the inquiry sign, and Castellano claimed a foul. After what seemed an interminable period of deliberation, the stewards unanimously, and shockingly, reversed the order of finish. That led to a firestorm of criticism not only from Smith and trainer Bob Baffert, but from fans of the game.
The stewards claimed they couldn't find a culpable horse in the bumping around the quarter-pole, which is inexplicable, and they did find fault with McKinzie in the stretch drive despite Smith's assertion that his horse was being turned by Bolt d'Oro.
So a great race between two horses was decided by humans, not horses, and it's a shame it turned out that way. Make no mistake, there were those who said the decision was correct, but the public outcry drowned them out.
Regardless of the foibles of humans, both horses acquitted themselves well. McKinzie lived up to expectations, and Bolt d'Oro performed admirably after over four months without racing following a disappointing third place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
With the dust settled, Bolt d'Oro's 50 new Kentucky Derby points got him to a total of 64. McKinzie now has 40 points, which should be enough to get him in, too. Kanthaka who edged Peace for third, was beaten 6 1/2 lengths but picked up 10 points, and Peace got five.
Mick Ruis is living the dream as owner and trainer of Bolt d'Oro. whom Ruis bought for $630,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga July 2016 yearling sale. The winner-by-DQ was bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm LLC, who also bred Quip, winner of today's Tampa Bay Derby. Now that's a good day.
Payoffs were short, with Bolt d'Oro paying $4.40, $2.60 and $2.20 and McKinzie returning $2.40 and $2.10 as the even-money favorite. The winner's share of the purse was $240,000, compared to $80,000 for the runner-up. That's a difference we can all appreciate.
Mick Ruis, winning owner-trainer: “This was a steppingstone, and that’s all we needed. He’ll come back good. We wanted to run a good race. 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. Bolt hadn’t run in a while. I had one three-quarter work in him; this wasn’t the race we were looking forward to. We’re looking forward to the Santa Anita Derby and then that next race that I won’t mention yet.”
"Coming into this race, (he dragged them) from the receiving barn to the paddock. In the Breeders’ Cup, 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. I wasn’t even thinking about the inquiry the whole time. 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 points.”
Javier Castellano, jockey aboard Bolt d'Oro: “He broke really well out of the gate and put me in a good spot in the race. 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.”
Bob Baffert, trainer of McKinzie: (Before the DQ) “They’re taking way too long for this. The longer this goes it certainly isn’t good. But, after the way that horse hit McKinzie at the top of the stretch . . . give me a break. It was game over."
(After the DQ) “That’s some bullshit. 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.”
Mike Smith, aboard McKinzie: “That last hit where he hit me in the ass, he turned me out. I was just trying to ride my own race and he was on top of me. At the quarter pole, after the quarter pole and through the lane he hit me and turned me out. I mean he’s got the whole racetrack and he’s on top of me on the fence. Anytime it takes that long and you’re the one who won, you certainly don’t like it. 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. Well, you win some that way and I guess you lose some that way.
Darrell McHargue, Chief Steward: “It was a unanimous vote, yes. There were two incidences at the top of the stretch. The shots that were shown were inconclusive as to who initiated the contact at the head of the stretch. So they couldn’t be clear on any one horse. The incident inside the sixteenth pole was clear. 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.”
B. Wayne Hughes, Spendthrift Farm owner, who has stallion rights to Bolt d'Oro: “I was pretty darn excited when we heard the announcement, and that’s when I thought it OK to come down to the Winner’s Circle. We could see clearly that there was interference. Mike was hitting left handed, driving them into Bolt. His last work was off the chart. 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.”