Taking a Stand in the San Felipe Stakes

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

March 8th, 2018

When two star horses face off in a major race, it can be rather challenging for handicappers to make a significant score.

Such will be the case on Saturday when Santa Anita hosts the $400,000 San Felipe Stakes (gr. II), a Road to the Kentucky Derby prep race that features an exciting matchup between #1 Bolt d’Oro and #4 McKinzie, two of the most promising horses on the Derby trail.

For fans of the sport, Saturday’s matchup could be the highlight of the weekend. For bettors, it’s a tricky race because Bolt d’Oro and McKinzie will both be very short prices—both could start at less than 2-1, making it difficult to bet both and still make a meaningful profit.

With this in mind, I’m going to take a stand and take McKinzie for the win. Racing for the four-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Bob Baffert, McKinzie opened his career with an impressive 5 ½-length win sprinting seven furlongs at Santa Anita last fall, then took a big step up in class and distance for the Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity (gr. I) and turned in a game effort to finish second despite making a premature bid for the lead. He was later placed first via the disqualification of the winner.

McKinzie’s most recent run was arguably his best to date. In the one-mile Sham Stakes (gr. III) at Santa Anita, McKinzie patiently bided his time in fourth place early on before taking command in the homestretch and pulling away to win by 3 ½ lengths over a quality field that included the future Southwest Stakes (gr. III) winner My Boy Jack.

Notably, McKinzie has earned triple-digit BRIS speed figures in all three of his starts, an impressive feat that has stamped him as a budding star. His strong finish in the Sham was also noteworthy, as he ran the final quarter-mile in a quick :24.41 and earned a powerful 108 BRIS Late Pace rating.

McKinzie will have to be on his toes to defeat Bolt d’Oro, who posted an eye-catching 105 BRIS speed figure while winning the FrontRunner Stakes (gr. I) over this track and distance last year by 7 ¾ lengths, but I’m a little concerned by the fact that Bolt d’Oro has broken slowly from the starting gate in three of his four starts. That slow-starting tendency cost him severely in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I), in which he was hung very wide on both turns and could only finish third. A slow start while breaking from post position one could potentially put Bolt d’Oro in a tricky position racing inside and behind horses.

I’ll play McKinzie on top of a trifecta while trying to catch a longshot for second or third:

$4.50 trifecta: 4 with 1 with 2,3,5,7 ($18) $3.00 trifecta: 4 with 2,3,5,7 with 1 ($12)

Good luck!