McKinzie Eyeing Breeders’ Cup Classic Redemption

Field warming up for 2009 Breeders Cup C" (CC BY 2.0) by Lisa Andres

McKinzie put forward a performance to forget at the Breeders’ Cup Classic at the Churchill Downs last season. Bob Baffert’s charge was the leading contender to take the crown but failed to rise to the occasion, placing in 12th out of 14 horses on the day. His rival Accelerate claimed the victory, romping to the win down the stretch ahead of a talented field.

Field warming up for 2009 Breeders Cup C (CC BY 2.0) by Lisa Andres

McKinzie has been impressive since the worst outing of his career. Over the course of 2019, he has finished in the top two in all of his races, including his victory at the Alysheba Stakes on his return to the Churchill Downs in May. As a result of his consistency during the season, Baffert’s charge has been installed as the favorite for the Classic once again, although it will be worth monitoring his performances between now and the event by looking at his appearances on the Racing Post racecards, providing detailed information about upcoming meets across the globe.

The American thoroughbred overcame the disappointment of his performance at the Classic at the end of last year immediately. He was the favorite for the Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita and duly responded with a dominant display, beating the rest of the field by four-and-three-quarter lengths. After a month away from the track, McKinzie returned to action at the same racecourse in the San Pasqual Stakes. Although he put forward a fine outing, he lacked the pace with Mike Smith in the saddle. Battle of Midway had the speed when it mattered the most to close out the triumph by half a length.

It proved to be a similar story in the Santa Anita Handicap at the beginning of April. Smith put his charge in a good position after timing his surge to perfection. However, Gift Box was outstanding to hold off McKinzie to edge out the victory by a nose on the line. Baffert’s horse had performed well, but not well enough to work his way back into the winners’ circle. He proved his quality at the Alysheba Stakes where he was named the odds-on favorite on his return to the Churchill Downs. This time the track was not a house of horrors for the bay colt as he produced an imperious display over the rest of the field.

McKinzie took charge of the meet in the early stages and did not relinquish his advantage. Baffert’s horse triumphed by four-and-three-quarter lengths, comfortably beating Tom’s D’Etat. Displays of that nature are why the four-year-old is one of the top horse racing tips for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, although his odds in the +1000 range should still be treated with caution.

McKinzie has not been unbeatable, while his display last year at the Churchill Downs could raise concerns. He was narrowly off the pace last time out at the Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park, finishing second behind Mitole. Whether he can summon a strong enough performance to take the crown remains to be seen, although given the meet will be at Santa Anita there is hope for Baffert and company that he can deliver when it matters the most.