by NYRA Press Office
For Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, McKinzie's victory in Saturday's Grade 1 Whitney was especially satisfying as it demonstrated the 4-year-old's full potential and also served as a tribute to his friend, the late racing executive Brad McKinzie.
"He got a proper Grade 1 race, as they say in England," said Baffert. "The plan was to get the Met Mile, and maybe this. At least we got one of them. He showed us what he could do. [Jockey] Mike Smith rode him with a lot of confidence. He's got him figured out now."
McKinzie won the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity and Grade 3 Sham early in his career but missed the Triple Crown series with a hind-leg injury. After making his return, the colt captured the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby, Grade 1 Malibu, and Grade 2 Alysheba, but for Baffert those victories do not compare to what he accomplished yesterday in the Whitney. It was Baffert's first Whitney win in two tries, having sent out Sarava to a fourth-place finish in 2004.
In the Grade 1 Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap, McKinzie finished three-quarters of a length behind Mitole in second following a troubled trip. His journey was less eventful in the Whitney, ceding the early lead to Preservationist, taking over at the top of the stretch, and spurting clear under mild urging.
"Mike realized you can just sit there and put him anywhere," said Baffert. "He's got a kick. Usually, our horses, like Justify or [American] Pharoah, get out there and go. He's not that kind of horse. It's better when you don't have to worry about speed in the race. You can just place him. And he's quick enough to get out of trouble."
Baffert and Pegram decided to name the colt McKinzie while attending the funeral for their friend Brad McKinzie, who had served in various capacities at Los Alamitos Race Course before his death in 2017 at age 62.
"We were sitting there and people were telling stories about Brad," said Baffert. "Brad was a really funny guy. We were sitting there, they were telling stories. Mike Pegram, the owner with Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, said, 'You know what? We need to name a good horse after Brad.' I said, 'I think I've got one. I've got a Street Sense colt. I think he's pretty good. I've got good reports.'
"We didn't know if we were going to call him Big Brad or McKinzie. We thought 'McKinzie' has got a stronger name. I think Brad would have preferred 'McKinzie.' I actually think he got a little bit faster once we named him."
Baffert said he wants to give McKinzie one more start before the Breeders' Cup in November at Santa Anita, but has yet to decide on a race.
"I would like to get maybe one run," said Baffert. "I don't know where. [The Breeders' Cup] is a long ways off. I think I would run him one time."
Baffert confirmed that 2018 Champion Two-Year-Old Male Game Winner, winner of the Grade 3 Los Alamitos Derby in his most recent start, remains on target for the Grade 1 Runhappy Travers on August 24.
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World of Trouble recovering from foot bruise, G3 Turf Monster possible
Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables and Bethlehem Stables' World of Trouble visited the track Sunday morning as he continues to recover from a bruised foot that forced trainer Jason Servis to scratch the multiple Grade 1 winner from Saturday's Grade 3, $200,000 Troy.
World of Trouble, riding a five-race win streak including the Grade 1 Carter Handicap at Aqueduct and Grade 1 Jaipur June 8 at Belmont Park last out, was the 3-5 program favorite for the 5 ½-furlong Troy, won in track-record fashion by Leinster [1:00.23].
"He's better. He had a foot bruise. We tested it and he was tender, real tender. We kind of had to cut it out and it got a little more tender, nothing serious," Servis said. "He actually went to the track today, but he's still a little tender on that foot. It's a shame. It was just bad timing. It showed up on Monday, and we were trying to make it."
Servis said the Grade 3 Turf Monster for 3-year-olds and up going five furlongs September 2 at Parx, would be the next target for World of Trouble. Unbeaten in four starts this year, the 4-year-old Florida-bred opened his season by winning the Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint.
"We were always going to run here and then try to make the Turf Monster, so we'll point for the Turf Monster," Servis said. "He's a monster. He's a monster horse. I can't wait to breed to him."
Servis was also pleased with the winning effort from Michael Dubb, Coyle Boys Stable and Bethlehem Stables' Grumps Little Tots Saturday at Saratoga. Racing for the first time since his runner-up finish in the Easy Goer June 8 at Belmont Park, the 3-year-old Sky Mesa gelding rolled by 3 ½ lengths in a nine-furlong allowance.
A maiden winner in his fourth career start Feb. 18 at Aqueduct, Grumps Little Tots was sent straight to the Grade 2 Wood Memorial April 6 where he lost all chance when pinched back at the start and finished ninth. He was put up to eighth following the disqualification of Joevia for interfering with several horses establishing a pace position from the far outside post.
"We always had high hopes for the horse," Servis said. "He got killed in the Wood, then he came back and ran second in the stake. It's like the old saying, 'Keep yourself in the best of company and your horses in the worst.' We tried to find a softer spot for him. He ran super yesterday. I talked to Mike but we haven't even thought about [what's next]. He'll stay for the winter, probably, at Aqueduct."
Beach Haven Thoroughbreds' stakes winner Uncle Benny will launch his comeback for Servis in Wednesday's $100,000 Mahony for 3-year-olds at 5 ½ furlongs on the grass. It will be just his fourth career start and first since running second in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf November 2 at Churchill Downs.
Uncle Benny, by 2013 Breeders' Cup Classic third-place finisher Declaration of War, drew the rail in a field of 10. Irad Ortiz Jr. is named to ride.
"The distance might be an issue, but he's doing super. We thought it'd be a good starting point," Servis said. "And, if it rains, we'll run. I don't know that he's as good a dirt horse, but I wouldn't scratch if it comes off. He's a nice, big, good-looking horse."
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Newly minted G1 winner Covfefe 'fantastic' out of thrilling Test victory
L N J Foxwoods' Covfefe emerged from her first career Grade 1 triumph in Saturday's $500,000 Longines Test in good order, allowing trainer Brad Cox to set another lofty goal for his star filly.
"This has been the goal with her for a long time, since the start of the year, to get her to this point. Mission accomplished," Cox said Sunday morning. "I guess the goal now would probably be the Breeders' Cup, but how we get there I don't know. We don't have to figure that out for a while. We'll come up with a game plan for her. I'm very pleased with how she came out of the race."
Cox said he was impressed with Covfefe's attitude both the night and morning following her hard-fought victory over Grade 1 winner Serengeti Empress, dueling from the start of the seven-furlong sprint before establishing command in the stretch and holding sway by a half-length.
"She's doing great, really good. She looked fantastic this morning. Actually, to run as fast as she did, she wasn't stressed at all after the race," Cox said. "She's a gifted filly. We learned a lot about her yesterday.
"There was still a little question mark going in if she was capable of getting seven-eighths, but with the proper trip she showed that she can do it," he added. "It was a super effort by two very nice fillies and two huge efforts. It was a huge battle. It was awesome."
Covfefe will remain at Saratoga until mid-August, when she is scheduled to return to Cox's main string at Churchill Downs.
"We'll give her an opportunity to relax and settle in here and recover. I think there's a plane going back on the 13th, so that's probably when she'll go back to Churchill," Cox said. "We won't shut her down or anything, but she'll do some light training."
On Wednesday, Cox will send out Red Diamond Stable's homebred Gio d'Oro in the $100,000 Evan Shipman for New York-breds 3 and older going 1 1/8 miles. It will be the first race for the 4-year-old Gio Ponti gelding since running fifth in an open one-mile allowance February 21 at Aqueduct.
"There's not a lot of options with him right now as far as races go. New York-breds, he's obviously been competitive with this group. There's been a couple times in his career where he's required breaks, but he's doing well," Cox said. "He's been training extremely well. It's a big ask, a mile and an eighth off a layoff against these types of horses, but I think he'll run well."
Gio d'Oro, out of the Medaglia d'Oro mare La Java, has finished in the money in nine of 10 career starts, three of them wins. He was second in the Gander in February 2018 in his only previous stakes attempt.
"He's been a very, very consistent horse," Cox said. "He ran pretty fast last time and just didn't come out of it the way we hoped, so we backed off of him and gave him a break and he's doing well. He's ready to go."
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Leinster targets G3 Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint following track record G3 Troy
Amy Dunne's Leinster emerged from his winning graded stakes debut in Saturday's Grade 3 Troy in good order, trainer Rusty Arnold said on Sunday morning. The 4-year-old Majestic Warrior bay colt broke the track record for 5 ½ furlongs at Saratoga completing the race in a time of 1:00.23 on a firm Mellon turf course, and will now target another graded stakes win in the Grade 3, $700,000 Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint on September 7.
Leinster, a half-brother to two-time Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint winner Stormy Liberal, won his two turf sprint starts leading into the Troy. He began his racing career with Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas but was never able to find the winner's circle in 11 starts over the main track. He finally broke his maiden at 13th asking when stepping up against allowance company over the turf at Keeneland in his third start for Arnold.
"He's in good shape," Arnold said. "The people that owned him wanted to sprint him on grass. They asked to do it. When we cut him back sprinting on grass, he's run well."
The victory built on a highly successful weekend for Arnold, who saddled Concrete Rose to a win in the Saratoga Oaks Invitational presented by Encore Boston Harbor on Friday.
Bred in Kentucky by Gryphon Investments, Leinster was an $85,000 purchase from the Fasig-Tipton July Yearling Sale in 2016. He is out of the Royal Academy broodmare Vassar who, in addition to Stormy Liberal, produced Grade 1-placed Coast Guard.
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Graded-stakes winner Divine Miss Grey retired
Corms Racing Stable and R. A. Hill Stable's graded-stakes winner Divine Miss Grey, a 12-time winner from 26 career starts, will be retired from racing after being pulled up in the stretch run of Saturday's Fasig-Tipton De La Rose and vanned off, trainer Danny Gargan said.
The chestnut daughter of Divine Park made the grade in the Grade 2 Chilukki at Churchill Downs in November.
Gargan said the 5-year-old mare had fractured a sesamoid in her left foreleg.
"She fractured one sesamoid but didn't tear any ligaments. She may need to have surgery on Monday, but she may not," said Gargan.
A barn favorite, Divine Miss Grey enjoyed her best season in 2018 posting a record of 5-3-1 from 10 starts, including stakes scores in the Heavenly Prize Invitational at the Big A; the Lady's Secret at Monmouth Park; and the Dr. James Penny Memorial at Parx. In addition, she hit the board in four graded stakes, finishing second in the Grade 3 Distaff Handicap at Aqueduct Racetrack; third in the Molly Pitcher at Monmouth; second in the Grade 1 Beldame at Belmont; and second in the Grade 2 Falls City Handicap at Churchill.
Divine Miss Grey, who defended her title in the Heavenly Prize Invitational to open her 5-year-old campaign, banked $934,372 in purse earnings through four seasons of racing.
Gargan, who had previously noted plans to retire Divine Miss Grey following this season regardless, said he will miss having the hard-knocking mare in the barn.
"She's going to be a broodmare. She's run a lot of races and she's a warrior. She's a tough filly and she always tries," said Gargan. "She's a special horse and I love her very much. She's got a big fan club."
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Clear skies for Got Stormy following De La Rose victory
After a pair of strong efforts against graded stakes company, Gary Barber and Southern Equine Stables' Got Stormy broke through on Saturday, rallying from fourth-of-six to cruise to a four-length win in the $100,000 Fasig-Tipton De La Rose for older fillies and mares on Saratoga's inner turf to cap the stakes action on Whitney Day.
The Mark Casse trainee entered off a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley on April 13 at Keeneland, finishing a neck back to Rymska for second and the winner Rushing Fall by 1 ½ lengths. Next out, she finished second to Beau Recall in the Grade 2 Churchill Distaff Mile on May 4. Following her first stakes win since the Grade 3 Ontario Colleen in July 2018 at Woodbine, Casse assistant Jamie Begg said the 4-year-old Get Stormy filly was in good order.
"She came out good and seemed happy," Begg said. "She had been training really well. We entered her to run at Belmont but she had some issue on the van that we had to deal with, but since we brought her back, she's been doing really well."
After shipping from Belmont, Got Stormy breezed three times at Saratoga's Oklahoma turf training track, including a five-furlong work on July 13 that gave the connections confidence.
"She was pretty impressive and she ran to her work," Begg said.
After Saturday's win, Casse left open the possibility of potentially running against males, with the Grade 1, $500,000 Fourstardave Handicap off a real short turnaround on August 10 at Saratoga, or the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile on September 14. Both are Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" challenge races. Begg said he would not comment on her possible next spot yet.
John Oxley's Moon Colony could be switching to dirt after running eighth in the Grade 2 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame on Friday, Begg said. The Uncle Mo colt has made his last five starts on grass, including all four as a sophomore, encompassing his win in the Grade 2 Penn Mile on June 1 at Penn National before a ninth-place finish in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby on July 6 to start the Turf Triple series. In the Hall of Fame, Moon Colony was bumped near the five-eighths pole and couldn't regain momentum.
Purchased for $400,000 at the 2017 Keeneland September Sale, Moon Colony last raced on dirt when fifth against optional claimers in October at Churchill.
"He came out all right. We got a rough trip in there and got camped out wide most of the race," Begg said of his Hall of Fame effort. "We might go ahead and try him on the dirt. He's always worked really well on the dirt, so we may try that. But it's still up in the air. Physically, he's doing well."
Begg also said the Oxley-owned Super Comet came out of his fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 Amsterdam on July 28 at Saratoga in good order, but his next start is still to be determined.
Fetching will be making her first stakes start - and main track debut - in Thursday's $100,000 Saratoga Dew for New York-bred 3-year-old fillies.
The daughter of Afleet Alex started her career 2-for-3, winning her debut on May 25 at seven furlongs on Belmont's turf before running third against allowance company in Elmont on June 14. She won at the Saratoga Dew's 1 1/8-mile distance on July 14 over the Spa's inner turf and will now compete against a six-horse stakes field, drawing post 2 with Manny Franco in the irons.
Based on her form and her morning activity on dirt - including working with Belmont Stakes-winner Sir Winston - Fetching will have a chance to prove her mettle on the main track.
"She's always worked really well on the dirt," Begg said. "When we first got her up her before she broke her maiden, she used to be Sir Winston's workmate. She's always worked well on the dirt. Even when she broke her maiden first out, Mark said she doesn't even look too much like a grass horse. She handles the dirt well, so I think she's one of those horses who is able to run on anything. We just think this is the best spot for her anyway, condition-wise, so we might as well figure it out."
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McLaughlin savors Lucullan's Fasig-Tipton Lure victory
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin will take his time before deciding a next start for Godolphin's Lucullan, who earned his first stakes victory by winning the Fasig-Tipton Lure by a nose on Saturday.
Lucullan returned from a 13-month layoff to win an optional claimer by 1 ¼ lengths July 3 at Belmont Park. On Saturday, the 5-year-old son of Hard Spun made the lead at the quarter pole and dug in to deny a late surge from Sacred Life. Previously, Lucullan had finished second in the 2017 Grade 3 Hill Prince and third in the 2018 Grade 3 Fort Marcy at Belmont Park.
"[Luis Saez] rode him very well," said McLaughlin. "He probably felt like he got there a little soon because [Voodoo Song] stopped in front of him and he got there a little early, but when [Sacred Life] came to him, he responded well to urging. It's great to win two off of a long layoff, and, obviously, we'll step up to graded stakes again. It's just where he'll go. We'll have to figure it out."
McLaughlin said he will consider the Grade 2, $250,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap on September 2, closing day at Saratoga, but has concerns about the quick turnaround.
"It's back in four weeks after a long break, so we might not do that," said McLaughlin. "We'll see."
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Weaver scores with maiden win; Point of Honor remains on target for G1 Alabama
Conditioner George Weaver scored his first victory of the Saratoga meet from 19 starts getting off the bench with 2-year-old juvenile colt Our Country for R.A. Hill Stable and Gatsas Stables, who broke his maiden making his second start at the Spa.
The Constitution colt was the 2-1 mutuel favorite from the field of 10 and stalked comfortably from mid-pack before pulling away in the stretch to win by 5 ¾ lengths.
"He came back very good this morning," said Weaver. "He's been training like he could do that so it wasn't a total surprise. You never know when they go over there in the afternoons, but he lived up to his potential and performed well."
Weaver also reported Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Stetson Racing's Point of Honor continued to do well following her second-place finish in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks on July 21 and remained on target for a start in the Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama on August 17.
"She's doing well," said Weaver. "She'll probably breeze on [August] the ninth and have one breeze between the [Coaching Club American] Oaks and Alabama and go from there. She seems to be herself. Overall my bench isn't as quite deep as it's been in recent years but we'll keep firing away."
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Brown takes advantage
Pletcher impressed with maiden winners; will look to regroup with Vino Rosso
Trainer Todd Pletcher reached the winner's circle twice with a pair of maiden debut winners on Saturday's Whitney card, increasing his win total to eight though the first 18 days of the Saratoga meet moving him to second-place in the trainer standings, tied with Hall of Famer Bill Mott.
In Saturday's third race, juvenile Glory Road, owned byChina Horse Club International and WinStar Farm, stalked from just off the pace to win by a neck going seven furlongs. Pletcher said he was impressed with the victory.
"I thought he ran well," said Pletcher. "He didn't get the cleanest break and was three to four wide going into the turn and six-wide at the top of stretch. He did well to fight and finish strong."
In Race 6, En Wye Cee, at odds of 10-1 for Waterford Stable, rallied past even-money favorite Free Enterprise to earn the victory by a half-length, at odds of 10-1, in the 6 ½-furlong maiden sprint.
A Declaration of War colt, Pletcher said he was looking forward to the colt making his debut, but was not caught off guard by his final post-time odds.
"I wasn't entirely to surprised [at his odds] because you really had a prohibitive favorite in the race," said Pletcher. "He trained in the morning like he was good enough to win first time out. I was just a little concerned about going six and a half [furlongs]. I thought it might be a tick short for him, but he broke alertly and put himself in good position."
In the Grade 1 Whitney, Pletcher saddled multiple graded stakes winner Vino Rosso for owners Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable. Breaking form post 5 as the 4-1 third choice in the field of seven, he raced wide most of the way before earning show honors.
"We didn't quite get away from the gate as clean as we hoped for, but we ended up getting a good trip," said Pletcher. "We were following McKinzie pretty much most of the way around there and got up to his hip just at the top of stretch, but couldn't quite quicken up in the last part. I thought it was a solid try for him and we'll regroup from here."
Pletcher also reported Let's Go Stable's Wooderson and Starlight Racing's Sombeyay returned from their respective stakes efforts in good order.
Wooderson finished second in Friday's $100,000 Alydar, while Sombeyay completed the exacta in the Grade 2 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame.
"They each returned well," said Pletcher. "Wooderson, I thought ran very well. He's a horse we've always felt had potential. We kind of had to draw a line through his [Grade 2] Suburban effort and I thought he redeemed himself. Sombeyay took a tough beat and ran his heart out. He was just on the wrong side of a head bob, but we love the effort he gave."