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My Take On The San Felipe Stakes

by Jon White

March 14, 2018

Last Saturday’s San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park turned out to be a real humdinger.

McKinzie, favored at even money in the Grade II affair, and Bolt d’Oro, sent off at 6-5, put on quite a show. They staged a furious battle from the quarter pole all the way to a photo finish.

The photo showed that McKinzie finished only a head in front of Bolt d’Oro at the end of 1 1/16 miles, with the pair well clear of everyone else in the field of seven. It was 6 1/2 lengths back to Kanthaka, who came in third.

The three stewards -- Grant Baker, Scott Chaney and Kim Sawyer -- posted the inquiry sign. It was announced that the stewards were conducting an inquiry into two incidents, one near the quarter pole and one nearing the wire. It then also was announced that Javier Castellano, the rider of Bolt d’Oro, was lodging an objection against McKinzie and Mike Smith, alleging interference coming into the stretch and in deep stretch.

The inquiry lasted for more than 10 minutes before the stewards disqualified McKinzie and placed him second, which resulted into Bolt d’Oro being elevated to first.

Darrel McHargue, the California Horse Racing Board’s chief steward, was not involved in the decision to disqualify McKinzie. But McHargue made a statement on behalf of the Santa Anita board of stewards to explain their decision to disqualify McKinzie.

“The [videotape] shots that were shown were inconclusive as to who initiated the contact at the head of the stretch,” McHargue said. “So they couldn’t be clear on any one horse. The incident inside the sixteenth pole was clear. McKinzie, No. 4, came out under a left-handed whip and shifted No. 1, 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.”

I do concur with the stewards’ opinion that the videotape clearly shows that McKinzie drifted out in the final sixteenth. And I agree that the videotape appears to show that McKinzie did push Bolt d’Oro off his path. But while I see eye to eye with the stewards that McKinzie’s actions in the final sixteenth constituted a foul, I also think it’s a borderline call. I consider it a borderline call because, from what I saw, Bolt d’Oro never broke stride and Castellano never stopped riding. (It seems to me that stewards used to give more weight as to whether or not a horse broke stride and/or a jockey stopped riding.) The main reason that McKinzie found himself in jeopardy of being disqualified for what he did in the final sixteenth is that the margin between McKinzie and Bolt d’Oro was only a head at the finish.

Where I respectfully differ with the stewards’ San Felipe decision is how they adjudicated the incident coming into the stretch. The videotape of that incident is sufficiently conclusive to me in that I believe it establishes that Bolt d’Oro did foul McKinzie. I arrived at this conclusion based on what I gleaned from both the pan and quarter-pole shots of the videotape.

I feel that the pan shot does establish that Bolt d’Oro, on the outside, and McKinzie, on the inside, bumped hard twice coming into the stretch. The key question then becomes, as articulated in McHargue’s statement, who initiated the contact? Did McKinzie come out? Did Bolt d’Oro come in? Or did both happen?

The three stewards felt the videotape was inclusive. This certainly is not unreasonable because it is much easier to try and determine whether or not a horse has committed a foul on a straightaway rather than on a turn. But in my opinion, the quarter-pole shot is conclusive in showing that the contact between McKinzie and Bolt d’Oro coming into the stretch was not caused by McKinzie.

The way I saw it, while McKinzie was battling with Bolt d’Oro from the quarter pole to the head of the lane, McKinzie was “hugging the rail,” as they say. At no time did I see increased daylight or space in the distance between the rail and McKinzie. Inasmuch as I am convinced that McKinzie did not leave his path from the quarter pole to the head of the lane, I believe Bolt d’Oro was responsible for the contact between the two horses coming into the stretch.

Thus, in my opinion, Bolt d’Oro fouled McKinzie coming into the stretch, then McKinzie fouled Bolt d’Oro in the final sixteenth. Insofar as each horse committed a foul, these fouls would offset each other and, therefore, my vote would have been to make no change to the original order of finish. This is like when both teams commit a penalty in football, the referee will declare that the penalties offset each other and the down is replayed.

Many seem to be upset that the San Felipe inquiry took more than 10 minutes. I will say that, personally, I believe stewards should take all the time they think they need in order to make what they feel is the correct decision. If it takes more than 10 minutes, so be it. And don’t forget that in this particular case, the stewards had to deal with not one, but two incidents.

However, I also think that when it’s a very long inquiry, this fact in itself is an indication that perhaps the original order of finish should be left alone. I have worked as a steward in California, Washington and Idaho. There have been a number of times when I have said something like this to my brethren during an unusually long inquiry: “We still haven’t come to a decision even though we have been looking at this over and over and over and over. If we have not seen anything concrete enough yet by now to have made a decision, maybe that’s telling us that we should leave this alone.”

The vote by the Santa Anita board of stewards was 3-0 to disqualify McKinzie. The California Horse Racing Board deserves credit for transparency and accountability in that its policy is for the vote of the stewards to be made public via the track announcer and later in the stewards’ weekly minutes. The 3-0 San Felipe vote means that even if I had been one of the three stewards in the stand, McKinzie still would have been disqualified, unless I could have convinced at least one of the other two stewards to change their mind.

MY CURRENT KENTUCKY DERBY TOP 10

Going into the San Felipe, I had McKinzie ranked at No. 1 and Bolt d’Oro at No. 2 on my Kentucky Derby Top 10 list. Considering both colts ran such a terrific race in the San Felipe, I knew they again would be 1-2 this week. But what would the order be? I even toyed with the thought of making it a tie for No. 1 this week. But, no, that would be chickening out. I opted to keep McKinzie in first place. After all, first is where he did finish in the San Felipe.

Here is my Kentucky Derby Top 10 for this week:

1. McKinzie
2. Bolt d’Oro
3. Justify
4. Good Magic
5. Audible
6. Solomini
7. Promises Fulfilled
8. Quip
9. Enticed
10. Instilled Regard

I wrote last week that I “have the utmost respect for Bolt d’Oro.” In light of his performance in the San Felipe when making his first start since last Nov. 4 and missing some training due to a pulled muscle, I now have even more respect for the Kentucky-bred colt. I also want to congratulate Mick Ruis for a marvelous training job in having Bolt d’Oro ready to run the race he did following the layoff.

Bolt d’Oro now has won four of five career starts. His lone defeat came when he finished third behind Good Magic and Solomini in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at 1 1/16 miles last Nov. 4 at Del Mar. After a less-than-ideal start from post 11, Bolt d’Oro raced extremely wide throughout. His wide trip was quantified by Trakus. According to Trakus, Bolt d’Oro traveled 78 feet (or approximately nine lengths) farther than Good Magic.

As for McKinzie, I have thought highly of him ever since his sparkling career debut, a 5 1/2-length victory in a seven-furlong maiden special weight race at Santa Anita last Oct. 28 for trainer Bob Baffert. Nothing the Kentucky-bred Street Sense colt has done since then has made me question my belief that he is the real deal.

After McKinzie earned his maiden diploma, he won the Grade I Los Alamitos Futurity at 1 1/16 miles through the disqualification of Solomini. McKinzie then won Santa Anita’s Grade III Sham Stakes at one mile on Jan. 6 prior to losing his first race last Saturday when he had his number taken down in the San Felipe.

Bolt d’Oro and McKinzie each were assigned a 101 Beyer Speed Figure for the San Felipe.

Medaglia d’Oro, Bolt d’Oro’s sire, recorded a 107 Beyer when he won the 2002 San Felipe. For Bolt d’Oro, his 101 for the San Felipe was not a career-best figure. He previously had registered a 103 when he won Santa Anita’s Grade I FrontRunner Stakes at 1 1/16 miles last Sept. 30. According to Andy Beyer, Bolt d’Oro’s “raw figure” for the FrontRunner was a super impressive 113, but Beyer arbitrarily lowered it to 100. The figure was lowered to 100 mainly because Beyer deemed it out of whack vis-a-vis the other FrontRunner starters. I wrote that I understood why Beyer lowered the figure, but I also stated that I thought Beyer had overreacted and that Bolt d’Oro’s figure should have been higher than a 100. Beyer did eventually retroactively raise the figure to a 103.

I wrote last week that it appears to me that “McKinzie has the potential to become someone who goes out and constantly posts triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures.” His 101 for the San Felipe is his first triple-digit figure.

These are the Beyer Speed Figures for the winner of the San Felipe going back to 1992:

2018 Bolt d’Oro (101)+
2017 Mastery (105)
2016 Danzing Candy (100)
2015 Dortmund (104)
2014 California Chrome (108)
2013 Hear the Ghost (94)
2012 Creative Cause (102)
2011 Premier Pegasus (97)
2010 Sidney’s Candy (95)*
2009 Pioneerof the Nile (91)*
2008 Georgie Boy (97)*
2007 Cobalt Blue (96)
2006 A.P. Warrior (101)
2005 Consolidator (105)
2004 Preachinatthebar (101)
2003 Buddy Gil (102)
2002 Medaglia d’Oro (107)
2001 Point Given (105)
2000 Fusaichi Pegasus (106)
1999 Prime Timber (106)
1998 Artax (108)
1997 Free House (103)
1996 Odyle (101)
1995 Afternoon Deelites (106)
1994 Soul of the Matter (106)
1993 Corby (100)
1992 Bertrando (97)

+McKinzie finished first but was disqualified and placed second

*Run on synthetic

JUSTIFY POPULAR WITH DERBY FUTURE BETTORS

Who had the lowest price among individual horses in Pool Three of the 2018 Kentucky Derby Future Wager (KDFW) that closed last Sunday? Was it Bolt d’Oro or McKinzie? No. Was it Eclipse Award winner Good Magic? Nope. It was Justify, who has made just two career starts.

Justify has generated considerable excitement. Trained by Hall of Famer Baffert, the Kentucky-bred Scat Daddy colt won a seven-furlong maiden special weight race by 9 1/2 lengths at first asking Feb. 18 at Santa Anita. Justify then cruised to a 6 1/2-length victory in a one-mile allowance/optional claiming race on a muddy track last Sunday at the Great Race Place.

Affirming that Justify is a very serious racehorse, he recorded a 104 Beyer Speed Figure in his debut and a 101 last Sunday. His 101 came a day after McKinzie and Bolt d’Oro had recorded the same figure in the San Felipe.

Bettors in Pool Three of the KDFW were so smitten with Justify that he closed at 6-1 among the 23 individual horses. The “All Others” option was favored at 4-1. Bolt d’Oro was the second choice among individual horses at 7-1, with McKinzie next at 9-1.

Here were the final odds for Pool Three of the KDFW:

4-1 All Others
6-1 Justify
7-1 Bolt d’Oro
9-1 McKinzie
11-1 Good Magic
13-1 Audible
17-1 Solomini
21-1 Catholic Boy
24-1 Promises Fulfilled
25-1 Magnum Moon
28-1 Mendelssohn
29-1 Avery Island
31-1 My Boy Jack
39-1 Sporting Chance
39-1 Vino Rosso
40-1 Bravazo
41-1 Instilled Regard
44-1 Free Drop Billy
52-1 Gold Town
56-1 Strike Power
57-1 Combatant
57-1 Kanthaka
60-1 Noble Indy

Two of the horses you have if you played the “All Others” option in Pool Three of the KDFW are Quip and Enticed.

Quip, trained by Rodolphe Brisset, won last Saturday’s Grade II Tampa Bay Downs Derby by a length at 1 1/16 miles. The Kentucky-bred Distorted Humor colt was assigned a career-best 94 Beyer Speed Figure. His previous top Beyer had been a 77.

Enticed, conditioned by Kiaran McLaughlin, took Aqueduct’s Grade III Gotham Stakes at one mile last Saturday by 2 3/4 lengths. The Kentucky-bred Medaglia d’Oro colt recorded a career-best 95 Beyer Speed Figure. His previous highest Beyer had been an 84.

THE LATEST NTRA POLLS

This is this week’s NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll:

Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)

1. 412 West Coast (27)
2. 291 Unique Bella (1)
3. 270 Roy H (1)
4. 230 Forever Unbridled (1)
5. 220 Accelerate
6. 172 World Approval
7. 155 Gun Runner (13)
8. 136 Abel Tasman
9. 115 Gunnevera
10. 89 Sharp Azteca

Here is this week’s NTRA Top 3-Year-Old Poll:

Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)

1. 414 Bolt d’Oro (29)
2. 391 McKinzie (12)
3. 235 Good Magic
4. 232 Audible
5. 190 Solomini
6. 161 Promises Fulfilled
7. 138 Justify (1)
8. 130 Enticed
8. 83 Avery Island
10. 78 Bravazo