Bolt d'Oro, McKinzie Put on a Show in San Felipe Stakes

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

March 11th, 2018

The showdown lived up to expectations. It was everything racing fans were hoping for, and maybe more.

The $400,000 San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) on March 10th at Santa Anita was billed as a match race between Bolt d’Oro and McKinzie, two of the early favorites for the 2018 Kentucky Derby. And while such showdowns rarely live up to their pre-race hype, the San Felipe proved to be an exception, with Bolt d’Oro and McKinzie almost literally slugging it out to the wire in a tremendous finish.

Every way you slice it, the San Felipe was a strong race. While Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. III) winner Lombo carved out solid fractions of :23.50, :46.81, and 1:11.34, McKinzie loomed on the outside in second place and Bolt d’Oro drafted in behind the leaders, biding his time and waiting for McKinzie to make his move.

Around the far turn, everything began to happen at once. McKinzie took command from Lombo, and jockey Javier Castellano aboard Bolt d’Oro immediately sent his mount in pursuit of McKinzie, unleashing a quick burst of acceleration that carried Bolt d’Oro to even terms leaving the far turn, where the two colts exchanged bumps and McKinzie was briefly put in tight close to the rail.

From the top of the stretch to the finish line, Bolt d’Oro and McKinzie stayed side by side with virtually nothing between them, McKinzie on the inside and Bolt d’Oro on the outside. Bolt d’Oro held a narrow advantage passing the eighth pole, but McKinzie—battling back gamely while drifting into Bolt d'Oro through the homestretch—refused to be beaten and edged clear close to the wire to win by a nose.

Following a lengthy stewards’ inquiry, McKinzie was disqualified for interfering with Bolt d’Oro in the homestretch, and while the decision prompted extensive scrutiny from racing fans, the disqualification should not distract from the fantastic efforts turned in by both colts. Despite the solid early pace, Bolt d’Oro and McKinzie finished strongly over the final five-sixteenths of a mile, clocking the fourth quarter-mile in :24.84 and the final sixteenth in :06.53 for a final time of 1:42.71 for 8.5 furlongs, which translated to a 98 BRIS speed figure and a 101 Beyer speed figure.

Suffice to say, Bolt d’Oro and McKinzie thoroughly reaffirmed their status as top Kentucky Derby contenders. But which colt is better? Their close finish, while exciting, did little to clarify which colt might be the better candidate for victory on the first Saturday in May. A case can be made that Bolt d’Oro has more upside since he was returning from a four-month layoff and was not supposed to be at his best, but if this is the case it’s fair to wonder if running such a hard race while short of peak fitness might be tough to bounce back from, at least in the short term.

Which colt do you think has the better chance of winning the Derby?