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LOUISVILLE, KY – Watson, Pegram, and Weitman’s McKinzie played possum heading into the far turn but exploded at the top of the stretch and drew off convincingly to win Friday’s Alysheba Stakes (G2) Presented by Sentient Jet at Churchill Downs.
Breaking from the rail as the 3/5 heavy favorite under Mike Smith, McKinzie fought with Tom’s d’Etat immediately to his outside for inside position heading into the first turn. The two dueled heads apart early through fractions of :23.81 and :47.71, though as the field neared the far turn, Tom’s d’Etat began to pull ahead.
For a moment, the bettors’ choice looked to be in serious trouble, but nearing the top of the stretch, Smith rebid McKinzie and tipped him off the rail. Suddenly, the betting favorite was moving briskly and soon shot past Tom’s d’Etat. Given a strong hand ride the length of the stretch, the Bob Baffert trainee crossed with a 4 3/4-length advantage in a final time of 1:4110 for the 1 1/16-mile event over the good main track.
“You know, that’s not something you do every day, and nine times out of 10, it might not work,” Smith said. “But he was telling me he wasn’t ready to go; he was kind of slipping around down there, and I said, ‘Let me give him a breather here and see what he does.’ And I kind of took a hold of him and he backed up nice and I said, ‘OK, come on, come on,’ and all of a sudden, he filled up with air. Then I needed some room bad at that point because I was going to run over somebody. I did that on purpose. Again, nine times out of 10, it would never work and I would never do that, but he was telling me to do it and I listened to him. You’d be surprised when you listen; things seem to pay off a lot more.”
Though no match in the stretch for the winner, Tom’s d’Etat was well-clear by 3 3/4-lengths over the rest of the field. Seeking the Soul took third by a 1/2-length over Silver Dust, with Casino Star a head behind him in fifth and Instilled Regard 3/4 of a length further back. Bourbon Resolution and Copper Bullet completed the order of finish.
Hawaakom, Multiplier, and Prime Attraction all scratched, with the latter pair cross-entered in Saturday’s Old Forester Turf Classic Stakes (G1) here going 1 1/8 miles on the turf.
McKinzie’s win was his first of 2019 after suffering a pair of close losses in the San Pasqual Stakes (G2) and the Santa Anita Handicap (G1). The 4-year-old son of Street Sense improved his record to 10-6-3-0 with $1,483,560 earned.
“I knew if there was one horse who can’t get beat this week, it was this guy right there,” Baffert said. “He was going to set the tone for us. He’s been training well, but you have to win to get it going. Especially this horse. He’s had some tough breaks, tough losses. I was a little bit worried about him down the backside. Mikey got in a hole on him and I thought, ‘Not again’. But I think we’re learning more about this horse and the way he wants to run. I think he wants to run that way. They had him in a good pocket, but when he made that move, I knew it was going to be over.”
McKinzie returned $3.40 to win, $2.60 to place, and $2.10 to show. Tom’s d’Etat brought back $5 to place and $3.20 to show, while Seeking the Soul paid $2.60 to show.
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