ARCADIA, CA – The buildup was worth the wait, as Bolt d’Oro and McKinzie engaged in the far turn and battled the length of the stretch, then had the result settled by a controversial disqualification, in a memorable Saturday’s Grade 2, $400,000 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita.
Breaking well along the rail under Javier Castellano, Bolt d’Oro tracked in mid-pack while McKinzie and jockey Mike Smith pressured Lombo through splits of :23.50, :46.81, and 1:11.34. Each colt made his move for the front in the far turn, with McKinzie along the rail, and they emerged noses apart at the top of the stretch – and that’s when trouble began.
As the pair began to straighten out, Bolt d’Oro appeared to come down and hit McKinzie, bounce off, and hit him again. The two settled and dueled inches apart as the crowds roared in approval, which caused Smith to switch to a left-handed whip in deep stretch so that he wouldn’t hit his opponent. As a result, McKinzie began lugging out and brushed against Bolt d’Oro, causing the pair to both ride outward by two paths. In doing so, McKinzie was able to gain a slight lead and he hit the wire with a head in front in a final time of 1:42.71 for the 8 1/2-furlong main track event. A 10-minute stewards review ensued after Castellano filed a rider’s objection, and to the surprise of many, McKinzie was disqualified and placed second, with Bolt d’Oro named the winner.
“I didn’t want to be too far back and I think it was a perfect ride for him,” Castellano said. “I was concerned a little bit in the last part of the race, especially around the last 1/16. 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.”
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Smith, however, disagreed with the stewards’ decision.
“That last hit where (Bolt) hit me in the ass, he turned me out,” Smith said. “I was just trying to ride my own race and he was on top of me. At the 1/4-pole, after the 1/4-pole, and through the lane, he hit me and turned me out. I mean, he’s got the whole race track, and he’s on top of me at the fence. … I didn’t feel that I did anything. I was forced out. He hit me hard behind and it took me out.”
Mick Ruis, Bolt d’Oro’s owner/trainer, said afterward that he was happy with how Bolt ran off of a four-month layoff, regardless of the overall finish.
“I wasn’t thinking about the inquiry the whole time,” Ruis said. “I was just so proud of Bolt, and if he got moved up, he did. This wasn’t the race we were really pointing for.”
McKinzie’s trainer, Bob Baffert, was less kind with his post-race words.
“That’s some bulls***,” Baffert said. “Javier had a better story, I guess. 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.”
Darrell McHargue, the Chief Steward, explained the stewards’ unanimous decision thusly:
“There were two incidents at the top of the stretch. The shots that were shown were inconclusive as to who initiated the contact at the head of the stretch, so they couldn’t be clear on any one horse.
“The incident inside the 1/16-pole (below) was clear. McKinzie came out under a left-handed whip and shifted Bolt d’Oro out, off his path, and cost him a better placing. The margin of win was only a head, so therefore, McKinzie was taken down.”
Some 6 1/2 lengths back, the Grade 2 San Vicente winner Kanthaka took third ahead of Peace, wth Ayacara, Aquila, and Lombo completing the order of finish.
The San Felipe is part of the Road to the 2018 Kentucky Derby prep race season. Bolt d’Oro earned 50 points for the win, with McKinzie receiving 20 for second, Kanthaka 10 for third, and Peace 5 for fourth.
Bolt d’Oro’s win came in his first start since the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last fall, when he suffered his first career loss with a third-place finish. The son of Medaglia d’Oro improved his record to 5-4-0-1 with career earnings of $816,000.
“Bolt hadn’t run in a while,” Ruis said. “I had one 3/4 work in him; this wasn’t the race we were looking forward to. We’re looking forward to the Santa Anita Derby, and then that next race that I won’t mention.”
Bolt d’Oro returned $4.40 to win, $2.60 to place, and $2.20 to show. McKinzie brought back $2.40 to place and $2.10 to show, while Kanthaka paid $2.60 to show.