January 1 obviously marks the beginning of a new year. But it also could be the dawning of a new day for a talented young Thoroughbred.
Mackinnon had a fabulous two-year-old year running out of the Doug O’Neill barn. Showing a tremendous turn of foot down the lane, this son of American Pharoah won three of his last four starts with the lone defeat being in the season finale at the Breeders’ Cup. His third-place finish in the Juvenile turf was another strong showing and makes for optimism as the calendar turns.
The Sham Stakes at Santa Anita will be the three-year-old debut for Mackinnon. Here is the kicker on this one. The Sham is a one-mile dirt race that offers Kentucky Derby points and all of Mackinnon’s wins have come on grass. Of course, we know his pappy was prolific on dirt so perhaps pedigree is on his side. This is not the first rodeo for O’Neill and the cunning California-based conditioner has reason to believe this ultra-talented colt can make the transition to the Derby trail on dirt.
“He has continued to train well on the main track and shows us all the right stuff”, says O’Neill, who has won the Kentucky Derby twice (2012 I’ll Have Another, 2016 Nyquist). “He has matured a lot mentally and physically and we know he likes two-turn races. I’m optimistic he can carry his grass form to the dirt.”
Mackinnon started his carer with a fourth-place finish on dirt in a four-and-a-half furlong race at Santa Aita on May 9, 2021. The Sham is carded as race 7 on a 10 race New Year’s Day extravaganza. The field is compact with only five entrants, but two are big swingers Newgrange and Rockefeller from the Bob Baffert barn. The expected post time for the grade 3 event is 3:05 Pacific time.