ARCADIA, CA – Karl Watson, Michael Pegram, and Paul Weitman’s McKinzie seemingly never left second gear as he confidently cruised past his rivals to win Sunday’s $200,000 Triple Bend Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita Park.

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Breaking from the far outside post 5 under Mike Smith as the heavy 1/2 favorite on the tote, McKinzie continued running widest of all while within striking distance. His Bob Baffert stablemate Ax Man led the way down the backstretch, posting modest opening fractions of :23.59 and :46.13 while Fashionably Fast applied pressure.

McKinzie began moving past his rivals heading into the far turn and hit the 1/4 pole three abreast outside of Fashionably Fast and Ax Man on the rail. Let loose once straightened for home, McKinzie remained confidently hand-ridden the length of the stretch, despite a game effort from Fashionably Fast for much of the running.

Cruising across the wire by 1 1/2 easy lengths, McKinzie completed the 7-furlong fast dirt sprint in a final time of 1:22.56.

Credit: Benoit Photo

“They all had class in there,” said Smith, who reunited with McKinzie after riding him regularly up through last fall. “You never know when a class horse is gonna jump up and run, so I have a lot of respect for all of them. The wonderful thing about McKinzie is he had me in the game early, and I mean he was ready to pounce at all times. It wasn’t like I had to make up a whole lot of ground to get to him or anything, I was able to get on by and hold his way. He got a great race out of that. I want to thank the owners and Bob for reuniting us again. You can’t wipe this smile off my face.”

Fashionably Fast fought well to maintain second by a neck over Dark Vader, making his first start since running second in the Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap (G3) last July. Flagstaff struggled to find his best footing and finished 1 length behind them in fourth, his first off-the-board finish since September 2018.

After being headed, Ax Man weakened steadily before completing the order of finish.

McKinzie’s win was his first since taking the Whitney Stakes (G1) and was a return to form after never running a step prior to finishing 11th in the Saudi Cup. The 5-year-old Street Sense horse improved his record to 16-8-6-0 with $3,438,560 earned.

“This was a perfect out for him,” Baffert said. “He had a cozy post and he showed his class. It was workmanlike and this’ll really move him up for next time. … We’re happy he’s back after that fiasco (when last in the Saudi Cup). He’s been looking really good training in all of his works. It’s great to have him back.”

McKinzie returned $3 to win, $2.60 to place, and $2.20 to show. Fashionably Fast brought back $6.60 to place and $5.80 to show, while Dark Vader paid $5.40 to show.