Shapiro: How to bet the San Felipe
by SCOTT SHAPIRO
The match-up between McKinzie and Bolt d'Oro in Saturday's San Felipe (G2) marks the most anticipated race thus far in this year's "Road to the Kentucky Derby."
It has not been a smooth journey from a third place finish as the odds-on favorite in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G!) to his first race as a three-year-old, but the highly regarded #1 Bolt d'Oro comes into the San Felipe off of a couple of strong works for trainer Mick Ruis.
Between the hiccups in training and the drama involved in choosing the colt's rider it was difficult to remain bullish on the son of Medaglia d'Oro's chances of winning the Run for the Roses, but a pair of bullet drills has the colt's supporters optimistic heading into Saturday.
While I respect the talent and the resume of Bolt d'Oro it is impossible for me to endorse him in his first try off the bench. His issues at the gate combined with the inexperience of his connections in preparing a horse for the Triple Crown series make him a fade for me until he proves he is the same horse I witnessed as a juvenile.
On the other hand, #4 McKinzie has done little wrong since breaking his maiden on debut on October 28 for Hall of Famer Bob Baffert. Baffert wasted no time with the son of Street Sense racing him in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) just six weeks later.
McKinzie heads into the San Felipe a perfect three-for-three in large part due to a controversial disqualification in the aforementioned Futurity, but he backed up that graded stakes score with a career best 100 BRIS Speed Rating in the Sham (G3) on January 6.
McKinzie has reportedly been training exceptionally well since his last race and is not only my top choice on Saturday, but he is also currently ranked first in my Kentucky Derby Top Ten. He should sit a perfect trip off the likely pacesetters #2 Lombo and #6 Calexman and have more than enough run late to put away his rivals.
The top two in the San Felipe are almost certain to take the lions' share of dollars wagered in the Win pool, but do they have to run 1-2 to the wire?
I argue no.
#8 Kantahaka has the look of a colt that will be at his best as a late running sprinter, but that does not mean he cannot "pick up the pieces" in the San Felipe.
The son of Jimmy Creed showed an extremely impressive turn of foot in the seven-furlong San Vicente (G2), but his late kick was setup by an extremely aggressive first half-mile. He should once again get an honest pace to run into in the San Felipe, but the stretch out to two turns is not likely to leave him with as much energy late as he had in his first start versus winners on February 10.
That being said, Kanthaka comes into the race fit and retains the services of jockey Flavien Prat. A runner-up effort to McKinzie seems well within the range of outcomes.
Outside of the top three on odds maker Jon White's morning line it is hard to make a serious case on the win end for any of the other three-year-olds. Perhaps #2 Lombo can carry his speed all the way like he did in the Robert B. Lewis (G3), but I expect things to be more challenging early for the Kentucky-bred son of Graydar.
The rest of the field appears overmatched.
Here is how I will wager on the San Felipe:
$50 Win 4 (8-5 or higher)
$20 Exacta 4-8
$10 Pick 3 (starting in Race 5) 4-6-1
Total Budget: $80
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