Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert sent his two leading Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) contenders, McKinzie and West Coast, out for their penultimate works Sunday at Santa Anita.
McKinzie fired a bullet six furlongs in 1:11.20, and workmate Dabster posted the next-best of eight moves at the distance in 1:11.60. Champion stablemate West Coast clocked 1:11.80 accompanied by Roman Rosso, who finished up in 1:12.00.
“At the start of the year, McKinzie was one of my best horses, until Justify came along,” Baffert said. “The Classic is a tall order for him because he’s only had one prep coming off a layoff, but McKinzie will move up off that race (his victory in the Pennsylvania Derby [G1]).
“But one thing in his favor, even though the Classic is a mile and a quarter, I had a really good foundation into him.”
Baffert’s third Classic candidate, Collected, would also be making his second start off the layoff in the $6 million feature.
“I think the horses to beat are all out here,” Baffert added. “Accelerate is the gold standard and West Coast got within two (lengths) of him (when second in the Awesome Again [G1]) off a real long layoff.
“Accelerate is the horse to beat. He’s become so consistent and he likes to win.”
Presumptive Classic favorite Accelerate drilled five furlongs in :59.80 at Santa Anita on Saturday, and trainer John Sadler clocked him galloping out seven in 1:26.
“He went very well,” Sadler said. “I had him in a minute flat, but we’re splitting hairs there. He had another nice gallop out. I had him out in (one) 26.
“Baffert clocked him, too. He was standing right next to me and he says, ‘I don’t like it,’ so I felt good. Accelerate will have one more work here, either Friday or Saturday next week, and he ships Sunday (October 28).”
At Churchill Downs Sunday, Catholic Boy turned five furlongs in 1:02.60 with Hall of Famer Javier Castellano in just for the workout.
After recording fractions of :13.40, :26, :38.20 and :50.60, the versatile sophomore galloped out six furlongs in 1:15.40 and tacked on a seventh in 1:28, Churchill clocker John Nichols reported.
“He broke off really nicely today,” Castellano said. “He feels really good and really galloped out well. He really picked it up well down the lane and galloping out.
“It’s really amazing to think how much riders truly mean to a work,” trainer Jonathan Thomas said. “Javier is great and I’m glad we’ve got him.
“I thought everything went really well. He broke off kindly from the pony. He started the work slowly but really picked it up from there.
“It was more of an endurance-building work this morning. He ran two tough races over the summer (winning the Belmont Derby [G1] and Travers [G1]) so we didn’t really need anything too speedy. This was probably the most major work prior to the Classic and we’ll likely come back with something easy next weekend.”
Mind Your Biscuits, mulling the Classic or the Dirt Mile (G1), exercised six furlongs in 1:15 at Churchill Downs on Friday. Under jockey Tyler Gaffalione, the Chad Summers charge took to the track with Dirt Mile candidate Imperative, who clocked 1:16.40.
Nichols relayed Mind Your Biscuits’ splits in :13.40, :26.60, :39.40 and :51.80, followed by a double gallop-out of seven furlongs in 1:28 and one mile in 1:41.20.
“That was perfect ‘T,’” Summers told Gaffalione via radio. “Absolutely perfect.
“We’re just keeping our options open as we have been all year. It was a really strong breeze and he’s doing great here at Churchill. The work itself may have started a bit too slow but I think visually it was good. The pre-entry deadline is Monday and we’ll go from there. We saw in the Lukas Classic (G3) he can stretch out (1 1/8 miles) and go long. We’ll just see what happens.”
Also at Churchill Friday, Classic contender Thunder Snow traveled one mile in 1:42.20. The Saeed bin Suroor trainee clicked off fractions of :14.20, :26.60, :39.60, :51.80, 1:04.20 and 1:16.80.
“We’re very happy with the way he’s doing,” Godolphin’s Tommy Burns said. “We gave him an extra blow today since he’s been pretty fresh. We’re very pleased with how it went.”
Seeking the Soul turned five furlongs beneath the Twin Spires in 1:01.
“It was a really solid work,” trainer Dallas Stewart said. “I’m a big believer in following patterns. When I worked with Wayne (Lukas) through three of the Derby wins we had the same work pattern and it obviously worked out. I like breezing on Fridays to give us an extra day wiggle room in case of bad weather. That way if we have to push the work back, we’re not on top of the race if it’s on a Saturday, like the Classic is. We just hope we can get in the Classic.”
Gunnevera drilled five-eighths in a bullet 1:00.60, best of 27 works at his Gulfstream Park West base Saturday.
At Santa Anita Friday, Pavel exercised six panels in 1:13.20, while Axelrod went five over the same track in 1:01.00 Saturday.
Well-traveled Toast of New York, listed as possible for the Marathon (G2) on the Breeders’ Cup Friday undercard, stretched his legs in :53.60 for a half at Churchill Sunday.
“He did really well this morning,” assistant trainer Jimmy McCarthy said of the British-based gelding. “We went about 24 seconds for the final two furlongs of the work and I think Toast needed that little blow out.”