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Two of America's best older horses, McKinzie and Battle of Midway, head a field of eight 4-year-olds and up going a mile and one eighth in Saturday's Grade II, $200,000 San Pasqual Stakes at Santa Anita Park.
Throw in Dabster, who like McKinzie, is trained by Bob Baffert, and the San Pasqual, which is a traditional steppingstone to the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap on March 9, has the look of and extremely tough race with the top three all possessing good early speed.
A sensational winner of the Grade I, seven furlong Malibu Stakes here on Dec. 26, the Bob Baffert-trained McKinzie had been considered for last Saturday's Grade I, $9 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational, but Baffert has opted to keep the 4-year-old Street Sense colt at home over a surface that he's finished first on in four out of four tries-the only blemish being a disqualification from victory in last year's Grade II San Felipe Stakes four starts back on March 10.
A winner of the 2017 Grade I Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, the Jerry Hollendorfer-trained Battle of Midway battled gallantly, but finished second by a half length to highly regarded Gift Box as the 3-2 favorite in the Grade II San Antonio Stakes here Dec. 26 and appears primed for a top effort with leading man Flavien Prat back aboard.
Race 9 on Santa Anita's Saturday card with a Post Time of 7:23 PM
|5||Giant Expectations||12-1||Joel Rosario
|8||Battle of Midway||5-2||Flavien Prat
Considered by Baffert to be his top 3-year-old a year ago, McKinzie was taken off the Derby Trail following his race in the March 10 San Felipe due to a minor injury and resurfaced to be an easy winner of the Grade II Pennsylvania Derby Sept. 22 as the 2-1 favorite. Following that, he posted the only bad performance of his brief career, a 31 length defeat in the Grade I Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs Nov. 3, from which he rebounded with his 4 ¾ length triumph in the Malibu.
Considered a leading contender for both the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap on March 9 and the Group I Dubai World Cup March 30, McKinzie is poised to have his best year yet and is strictly the horse to beat on Saturday with regular rider Mike Smith set to ride. Out of the Petionville mare Runway Model, McKinzie is 7-5-1-0 with earnings of $1,086,000.
Owner: Mike Pegram, Karl Watson & Paul Weitman | Trainer: Bob Baffert
In what by any accounting was a tremendous effort, this 5-year-old full horse by Smart Strike battled every step of the way going 1 1/16 miles in the opening day San Antonio, but had to settle for second money in what was his fifth start after a failed tour of duty at stud.
Retired following his Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile win, Battle of Midway, who has four wins from seven tries at Santa Anita, also appears poised to have a tremendous year and could likely by trading punches with the top selection early and late on Saturday. Ridden by Prat on 12 occasions, six of them wins, he approaches Saturday's Lewis with an overall mark of 15-7-4-2 and earnings of $1,469,049.
Owner: Don Alberto Stable & WinStar Farm | Trainer: Jerry Hollendorfer
With McKinzie in the lineup, this hard knocking 5-year-old son of Curlin will assume the role of the "Other Baffert" on Saturday as he figures to be the third choice in the wagering. Third, beaten three quarters of a length by Battle of Midway in the opening day San Antonio, Dabster went head and head with Battle of Midway two starts back, finishing second by a neck in the Grade III Native Diver Stakes at Del Mar two starts back on Nov. 25.
He'll be ridden for the sixth consecutive time by Joe Talamo, who orchestrated two out of his three wins last year. With an overall mark of 12-5-2-2, Dabster has earnings of $347,305.
Owner: Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum | Trainer: Bob Baffert
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