Could this rivalry be a feature of the season ahead?

Head to head: Bolt D’Oro (left) and McKinzie in the closing stages of the San Felipe. Photo:

The race produced a thrilling stretch duel between two high-quality colts, but did we see a Kentucky Derby winner? TRC analyst James Willoughby gives his verdict on the San Felipe Stakes in the latest of his assessments of the trials on the road to Churchill Downs.



Episode 14: San Felipe Stakes (March 10, Santa Anita, Grade 2, 8.5f)

Winner: Bolt D’Oro*
Jockey: Javier Castellano (TRC Global Rank #6)
Owner: Ruis Racing LLC (#131)
Trainer: Mick Ruis (#292)
Sire: Medaglia d’Oro (#7)

*Mckinzie was first past the post, but disqualified for causing interference

Result chart: click here

The seven runners were winners of three Grade 1s, a Grade 2 and two Grade 3s: this was by far the best race so far in 2018 on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.

Mckinzie, the G1 Los Alamitos Futurity winner, faced a much stiffer task than in the G3 Sham Stakes and upped his game to get the better of a protracted battle with Bolt D’Oro (see video below). There was an exchange of bumps between the first two for which the stewards deemed Mckinzie culpable. And so he was taken down, even though justice would hardly have been served worse had he been allowed to keep the race.

Once again, Mckinzie looked a bit of a character at various stages. He put his ears back early when ridden to get a position, and came off a true line under pressure, but his resolution in the finish could not be doubted; indeed, his giraffe-like neck could be useful in many a photo-finish.

They went 23.50 – 23.31 – 24.53 – 24.84 – 6.53 (pro-rated 26.12). The fractions tell the story: even as the front pair drew clear, they were paying the price for asserting themselves in good company. Mckinzie is a very smart colt and would line up at Churchill Downs as one of the first few in the betting, without a doubt.

Does Bolt D’Oro have more to offer? This was his return, and he was forced to come round Mckinzie on the apex of the turn. He got tired in the closing stages and, by the line, looked as if he had given his all. It would be churlish to criticise him, but, at the same time, he set himself sky-high standards as a juvenile, and even this performance represents something of an anti-climax.

Let’s bolster the argument with figures. When Bolt D’Oro won the G1 FrontRunner Stakes at Santa Anita last September, he earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 103. This includes no provision for weight-for-age, so he should be capable of breaking through that with the benefit of six months’ additional maturity. It’s in this context that the 101 earned here needs to be viewed – it’s a very good number, but we don’t know which way Bolt d’Oro is going.

For now, however, let’s accentuate the positive: in Mckinzie and Bolt D’Oro, the Kentucky Derby has its two headline acts. Their rivalry could become a feature.

Kanthaka was well held in third, but may have run a sneaky good race. Okay, his G2 San Vicente Stakes in February was the result of a complete pace meltdown, but he may benefit from a greater test of stamina.

It was no surprise that the G3 Robert B. Lewis 1-2, Lombo and Ayacara were exposed.

Previously in this series

1. Sham Stakes (McKinzie)
2. Lecomte (Instilled Regard)
3. Jerome (Firenze Fire)
4. Smarty Jones (Mourinho)
5. Holy Bull (Audible)
6. Withers (Avery Island)
7. Robert B Lewis (Lombo)

8. Sam F Davis (Flameaway)
9. Risen Star (Bravazo)
10. Southwest (My Boy Jack)
11. Fountain of Youth (Promises Fulfilled)
12. Road to the Kentucky Derby Stakes (Gronkowski)
13. Patton Stakes (Mendelssohn)


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