Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert continued his stranglehold upon the $300,000 Los Alamitos Futurity (G1), extending his record with a 10th victory in the Kentucky Derby prep, but this one came with some controversy as McKinzie was elevated to first by the stewards after stablemate Solomini failed to maintain a straight path in the stretch.
Experience appeared to have prevailed on the wire as Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and FrontRunner (G1) runner-up Solomini rallied to edge last-out maiden winners McKinzie and Instilled Regard by about a length. However, he drifted in and bumped Instilled Regard, who was forced to steady slightly between horses, and McKinzie was also involved in the inquiry, appearing to have initiated the contact between the trio when drifting out slightly into the path of Instilled Regard in midstretch.
Stewards decided to keep McKinzie up after he outfinished Instilled Regard by a head. Solomini was placed third.
It was a tough beat for owner Zayat Stables and the backers of Solomini, who left the starting gate as the 8-5 second choice despite stellar credentials.
“I didn’t think there was going to be a change,” Baffert said. “(McKinzie) had a rough trip around the first turn and he got a little tired at the end. It’s a long stretch and he hooked up with (runner-up Instilled Regard) early. (Flavien) Prat (aboard Solomini) rode a great race just sitting behind them. Unfortunately, (Solomini) will lay on horses in the lane and you have to be careful with him. Prat might have gotten a little over aggressive. It’s really too bad they took him down. He was the better horse today.”
“I didn’t think he came in that bad,” Prat added about Solomini. “I didn’t think there would be a change.”
McKinzie was favored at 1-2 among five runners and netted 10 points for capturing the Road to the Kentucky Derby series qualifier. Mike Smith was up on the winner.
A bay son of Street Sense, McKinzie remained perfect in his second start after recording an impressive debut score at Santa Anita October 28, registering a 100 BRIS Speed rating for the 5 ½-length decision. He raced up close while well off the rail early in the Futurity, stalking within a length of pacesetters For Him and Runaway Ghost, who established opening splits in :23.7, :46.70 and 1:10.64 before retreating.
McKinzie advanced to take a short lead into the stretch but Instilled Regard was gaining momentum to his outside after launching a nice move rounding the far turn. Solomini, who dropped in behind horses from his inside post and trailed the entire field with five-sixteenths of a mile remaining, was guided to the far outside by Prat on the bend and entered the straightaway about a length behind the top pair.
Solomini grinded his way to the front in deep stretch and the Curlin colt was clearly going best at the finish as he began to draw away from tiring foes.
Instilled Regard experienced a troubled trip but it’s difficult to envision the stewards changing the order of finish if he had managed to save second. The $1.05 million Arch Colt, who was exiting a 4 ¼-length maiden tally in his third career outing, weakened to third in the final strides but was elevated by the stewards, picking up 4 points toward a Kentucky Derby berth for the runner-up effort.
Solomini garnered another 2 points with the third, increasing his total to 14.
Bred in Kentucky by Summer Wind Farm, McKinzie is campaigned by Karl Watson, Michael Pegram and Paul Weitman. He was purchased for $170,000 at the 2016 Keeneland September yearling sale. Out of the multiple Grade 2-winning Petionville mare Runway Model, McKinzie has now earned $210,000 from a pair of starts.