EXPERIENCE PAYS FOR SMITH AND MCKINZIE
Knowing what you got is always good and having the guts to trust your stuff can yield great things. When you have the confidence to make a chancy call and it works it can be legendary.
When Mike Smith guided three-time grade 1 winner McKinzie into the starting gates for the Alysheba on Kentucky Oaks day, most thought good things could happen. Smith had been aboard this son of Street Sense in all nine starts five with trips to the winner’s circle on the resume. Loading in a 3 to 5 favorite meant optimism was running high. But then the gates opened and the adventure began.
Breaking a bit slow, McKinzie was away but not in as good a spot as was expected. The hall of fame rider urged his charge toward the front as the horses rolled around the first turn. The run down the back stretch saw some curious moves as McKinzie was passed by Tom’s d’Etat and Bourbon Resolution moved alongside. Normally a horse does not re-rally so what in the world was Smith thinking here. It was almost like calling the statue of liberty play on fourth and twenty from your own ten yard line.
As the 105,000 on-lookers scratched their heads, the horses turned for home and suddenly it happened. Under Smith’s urging, McKinzie turned on the jets and rocketed to the front. Opening up on the field, this son of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense galloped home in dominating fashion. So what was the plan from the man that booted him home?
“He was kind of slipping around on the track and he wasn’t ready to go”, says Smith. “That’s not a move you normally make with a horse and 9 times out of 10 it does not work. Knowing the horse and having experience with him, I listened to what he was telling me. Once he settled and got some air back in him, I knew he was ready to make his move it was just about getting him in the clear. If I didn’t think he was full of run I would have never done it.”
The win was a bit of validation for a runner that had been highly thought of since early last year. Two second place finishes in 2019 was not necessarily what had been expected of this Bob Baffert trained four-year old. Thanks to some confidence and a little guts, McKinzie was able to execute his rider’s play call to perfection.
“He’s had a little bad luck and had some things go against him, but I’m glad he showed up for this race,” says Baffert. “He’s a really good horse with a lot of talent.”