When Mckinzie stepped onto Churchill Downs’ track for the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Classic, he was the bettor’s second choice behind Accelerate. However, he tired in the stretch and finished a well-beaten 18th while Accelerate basked in the glory of victory.
This year, McKinzie gets his chance at redemption.
Early Life (2015-2016)
In 2006, Summer Wind Farm purchased multiple-graded stakes winner Runway Model at the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale for $2.7 million. They took her home to their Georgetown, Kentucky farm and gave the mare the best life she could possibly have.
In 2014, the decision was made to breed Runway Model to Street Sense. Street Sense had won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in 2006 and followed that up with a win in the Kentucky Derby in 2007. The mating was sure to produce a champion. The resulting foal was born on Feb. 25th, 2015 with the blood of Seattle Slew and Mr. Prospector coursing through his veins. He spent months romping through the pastures of Summer Wind before being weaned and prepped to sell as a Yearling.
When the colt was a year old, he was entered into the Keeneland September Yearling Sale. He looked absolutely stunning in the ring, looking proud and alert. The hammer fell at $170k, a bargain price for what he would later accomplish. [Video: Watch Mckinzie sell as a yearling]
His new owners was a partnership of three Arizona businessmen that included car dealership owners Karl Watson and Michael Pegram as well as Paul Weitmen, owner of 24 McDonald's franchises and a partner in casinos located in Reno, NV.
The three men have been partners in multiple horses that were trained by Bob Baffert and this colt would be no different. After going through basic training, he was sent to the barn of Bob Baffert who named the horse Mckinzie after his dear friend and racing executive Brad McKinzie that passed away in April of 2017.
Two-Year Old Season (2017)
Mckinzie made his debut on October 28, 2017, at Santa Anita. With Mike Smith in the irons, Mckinzie went four wide around the far turn and drew clear from his competitors to win.
Mckinzie’s connections were impressed enough with his debut to enter him into a Gr.1 race in his second start. He shipped to Los Alamitos for the Gr.1 Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity. Mckinzie and Mike Smith crossed the wire second, but were elevated to first after Solomini was disqualified for bumping.
In just two starts, Mckinzie had become a Grade 1 winner. Things were looking swell for this colt.
[Video: Watch the CashCall Futurity where Mckinzie was elevated to first after Solomini was DQ'd]
Three-Year Old Season (2018)
Mckinzie made his first start of 2018 in the Gr.3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita where he won with absolute ease. "Bobby likes the horse and he's a good horse, so we're hopeful and we're very pleased,” owner Karl Watson told BloodHorse.
Two months later, Mckinzie ran in the Gr.2 San Felipe Stakes. This race wouldn’t be so easy. At the top of the stretch, Bolt d’Oro lined himself up with Mckinzie and the two readied themselves for a duel. They soared down the stretch side by side, neither giving in. Mckinzie crossed the wire with his nose in front, but was disqualified for bumping with Bolt d’Oro.
Mckinzie was the third favorite for the Kentucky Derby when future wagering pools opened up in March, but a bruised hock kept him out of his Kentucky Derby prep and therefore out of all triple crown races while Baffert readied him up for a summer campaign.
While Mckinzie’s stablemate Justify swept all three Triple Crown races to become the sport’s 13th Triple Crown winner, Mckinzie was recovering and getting back into training.
When the colt did return, it was with a bang. He put in a strong effort to fend of Axelord in the Gr.1 Pennsylvania Derby in September.
It was finally time for him to try his hand on one of horse racing’s biggest stages: The Breeders’ Cup Classic. He left the gates quickly and sat on a fast pace. By the time he reached the top of Churchill’s stretch, he was tired. He dropped back quickly to finish 18th.
The horse’s finish was disappointing, but his connections knew he had something left in him.
They took their horse back home to California for the Gr.1 Malibu Stakes on December 26th. The race was run at seven furlongs, a distance relief from what he’d been running in. He also set further off the pace than usual. The change worked splendidly for him; the colt stormed home to win.
[Video: Watch Mckinzie win the Gr.1 Malibu Stakes]
Four-Year Old Season (2019)
2018 was filled with victory for Mckinzie. 2019, it seems, has been full of second-place finishes.
It started on a muddy, Santa Anita track in February when Mckinzie finished second to Battle of Midway in the Gr.2 San Pasqual Stakes. The two had battled hard down the stretch, but Mckinzie simply couldn’t pass his rival.
Two months later, he suffered another second place finish. Mckinzie ran his heart out in the Gr.1 Santa Anita Handicap, but lost to Gift Box by a nostril. "He did everything but win last time," Bob Baffert told BloodHorse before Mckinzie’s next race. “He got beat by a nose and has some tough losses this year. But he got beat by a nice horse. We didn't get a perfect, perfect trip so hopefully things will work out Friday."
[Video: Watch Gift Box and Mckinzie battle down the stretch in the Santa Anita Handicap]
Things did indeed work out for Mckinzie in his next race, the Gr.2 Alysheba Stakes. Mckinzie took the lead from the rail in the early stages of the race, but Mike Smith let his mount have a breather and the two were passed by their rivals. However, at the top of the stretch, Mckinzie came back to win by 4 ¾ lengths.
Mike Smith explained the risky move to BloodHorse, “I thought, 'You know what, he's good enough. If I can get him to get up underneath himself and get some air in him, he'll be okay. As soon as I did it, I knew it was going to work. It was just a matter of getting out at that point.”
Unfortunately for the colt, he felt narrow defeat again in the Gr.1 Metropolitan Handicap. He was closing quickly in the final stages of the race, but didn’t have enough time to catch Mitole.
He redeemed himself in his next race, the Gr.1 Whitney Stakes, by holding off Yoshida to win by over a length. "Yoshida came at me with a great run, and Joel Rosario is so sharp. He's a great rider," Mike Smith told BloodHorse. "He knows not to come right next to me because this horse will take off. So he kind of fooled us a little and went way away from us. But I put the whip in my left hand and I cocked his head out, and once he saw them, I didn't even have to use it."
[Video: Watch Mckinzie win the Whitney Stakes]
In his most recent start, Mckinzie again felt the agony of defeat. This time it was to the 25-1 pacesetter Mongolian Groom. Mckinzie tried, but finished second by about two lengths. It leaves the question, “Is Mckinzie good enough to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic?” He has won at Santa Anita in the past, but not since his win in the Gr.1 Malibu Stakes in 2018. And though the field for the Breeders' Cup Classic is dwindling as the days go by, Mckinzie will still have to face tough horses from his age group as well as younger horses like Code of Honor.
Nevertheless, a win in the Breeders' Cup Classic would be a cherry on top of a beautiful career for Mckinzie. He has proved himself time and time again as a good racehorse, but this would truly etch his name into the sport's history. Plus, it would mean the world to Bob Baffert to have this horse win for his dear friend Brad Mckinzie.
As the gates swing open Saturday evening at Santa Anita, watch carefully as he springs forward. He will be running for redemption.
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