July 23, 2024

Bolt d’Oro gains San Felipe over McKinze via DQ after compelling battle

Bolt d'Oro (left) came up a head short after battling through the stretch with McKinzie but was declared the winner of the San Felipe (G2) via disqualification ©Benoit Photo

Saturday’s $400,000 San Felipe (G2) at Santa Anita lived up to the hype as Kentucky Derby heavyweight contenders Bolt d’Oro and McKinzie threw down and fought head-and-head the entire length of the stretch. McKinzie narrowly got the better of the duel, but the drama was far from over as the stewards immediately lit the inquiry sign following a pair of bumping incidents in upper and late stretch.

After a lengthy review, stewards elected to disqualify McKinzie for drifting out and bumping his rival nearing the finish line. Bolt d’Oro was making his first appearance since a troubled third at 3-5 in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and the multiple Grade 1 winner returned from the 126-day layoff as a slight even-money favorite over the 6-5 McKinzie.

Javier Castellano picked up the mount for co-owner and trainer Mick Ruis and Bolt d’Oro stalked the pace in fourth before advancing into contention on the far turn and reaching even terms with McKinzie as they straightened for home.

“He broke really well out of the gate and put me in a good spot in the race,” Castellano said of Bolt d’Oro, who didn’t break cleanly in several juvenile starts. “He broke and shot out of the gate and put me where I wanted to be. I didn’t want to be too far back and I think it was a perfect ride for him. I was concerned a little bit in the last part of the race, especially around the last sixteenth.

“I think that my horse tried to hold back to force inside and we had some contact. They say he tried to intimidate my horse and that is why I couldn’t get past him. I wish it would’ve just been the two horses running straight in the race. We were the best two horses in the race. I just want to see who the better horse is.”

The connections of McKinzie (Bob Baffert and Mike Smith) saw things differently. Bolt d’Oro appeared to come in and make contact twice with McKinzie, nearly knocking him off stride the second time in upper stretch.

“That last hit where he hit me in the ass, he turned me out. I was just trying to ride my own race and he was on top of me,” a bitter Smith said. “At the quarter pole, after the quarter pole and through the lane he hit me and turned me out. I mean he’s got the whole racetrack and he’s on top of me on the fence.

“Anytime it takes that long and you’re the one who won, you certainly don’t like it. I didn’t feel that I did anything. I was forced out. He hit me hard behind and it took me out. It turns you out.”

“That’s some (expletive). Javier had a better story, I guess,” Baffert added. “I’m shocked, after the way he hit us at the top of the stretch. I don’t know what they’re looking at, but apparently he talked them into it. That’s why they should never talk to the jockeys, just watch it themselves.”

McKinzie, who was awarded the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) via disqualification in December, sustained his first setback but lost little in the defeat. A convincing winner of the January 6 Sham (G3) at Santa Anita, the Street Sense colt now shows a 4-3-1-0 career record. McKinzie tracked pacesetter Lombo in second through opening splits of :23.50, :46.81 and 1:11.34 before reaching the finish line of the 1 1/16-mile test in 1:42.71.

It was a 6 ½-length gap back to San Vicente (G2) winner Kanthaka, who edged Peace by a half-length for third.

Racing in the silks of Ruis Racing, Bolt d’Oro has now 4-of-5 starts, adding the San Felipe to victories in the FrontRunner (G1) and Del Mar Futurity (G1). The son of Medaglia d’Oro vaulted to the top of the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard with the 50-point prize in the qualifier, increasing his total to 64.

“This was a steppingstone and that’s all we needed,” Ruis said. “He’ll come back good. We wanted to run a good race. I don’t think the fans and everybody else could have had a better finish from the two horses they thought were going to run like they expected.

“Bolt hadn’t run in a while. I had one three-quarter work in him; this wasn’t the race we were looking forward to. We’re looking forward to the Santa Anita Derby (April 7) and then that next race that I won’t mention yet (Kentucky Derby May 5).”