By Bill Finley
MGISW McKinzie (Street Sense) is unlikely to head to Gulfstream for the Jan. 26 GI Pegasus World Cup. Trainer Bob Baffert told the TDN Saturday that it is “very doubtful” that his horse will go in the $9 million race.
Owners Karl Watson, Mike Pegram and Paul Weitman had not paid the $500,000 fee necessary to earn a berth in the race, but one was available as Gulfstream management is listing only 11 starters for a race that can include as many as 12.
McKinzie ran 12th in the GI Breeders’ Cup Classic Nov. 3, but rebounded with a win in the GI Malibu S. Dec. 26, a race that appeared to set him up perfectly for a start in the Pegasus. But Baffert said he and the colt’s owners met Thursday and all agreed that this was not the right time to push McKinzie into what would surely be a very tough assignment.
“McKinzie is doing really well and he will get even better,” Baffert said. “You can tell that he’s changing. It’s just that we didn’t want to take any chances of taking a step backwards. I’ve gone down to Gulfstream for that race before and I know how demanding the race is. The payment is $500,000, so you have to at least run third for it to be a push.”
The Hall of Famer won the inaugural Pegasus World Cup with Arrogate (Unbridled’s Song). Last year, Baffert finished second with West Coast (Flatter) and fifth with Collected (City Zip).
Baffert said the only way he would change his mind and try to get McKinzie into the race were if “something dramatic” happened to the make-up of the field.
“With horses as good as Accelerate (Lookin at Lucky) and City of Light (Quality Road), someone like that would have to defect for us to change our minds,” he said. “If we were talking about Arrogate, American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile) or Justify (Scat Daddy), we’d go. But this horse is different. He is a very nice horse, but he is still developing. I think that if we do right by him he’s going to wind up being the best older horse in the country and I don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves this early in the year.
Baffert continued, “I really like this race and I think it’s a great concept, something that is good for the sport. This will be the first time that I have missed it and I wish that weren’t the case. If he were going off to stud instead of staying in training, I’m pretty sure we’d be running, so you might see us in the race next year if all goes well.”
Baffert said he has no particular plans for McKinzie, but mentioned the GI Santa Anita H. as one option. He also said he would like to make the GI Metropolitan Mile.
“The Met would be a great race for him,” he said.
McKinzie is five for seven lifetime, with victories in the GI Los Alamitos Futurity, the GI Pennsylvania Derby, the GIII Sham S. and the Malibu.