He topped McKinzie, with buzz horse Justify cracking the Top 5
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Beaten by a head at the wire in Saturday’s Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes, but awarded a win due to McKinzie’s disqualification, Bolt d’Oro posted an outright victory over his Southern California rival with Monday’s release of the 2018 Kentucky Derby Media Poll assembled by HorseRacingNation.com.
A nationwide panel of experts awarded 14 of a possible 27 first-place votes to Bolt d’Oro in rankings that have featured a new No. 1 the last three weeks — first reigning champion Good Magic, then McKinzie and now Bolt, who ran impressively while ending a four-month layoff.
(The Pressbox — www.thepressboxlts.com — is a regular voter in the prestigious poll.)
“Saturday’s San Felipe firmly established McKinzie and Bolt d’Oro as the leaders of their class to date,” said the Thoroughbred Daily News’ Ben Massam, “and it will be up to the others to bridge the gap over the next two months.”
One Derby hopeful who appeared to do so Sunday was Justify, who Horse Racing Nation’s Matt Shifman said “was able to shift the entire racing conversation from the Bolt d’Oro and McKinzie controversial finish in the San Felipe after his eye-catching allowance victory.”
The son of Scat Daddy moved his record to 2-for-2 for trainer Bob Baffert and backed up a flashy debut by beating winners going a mile Sunday at Santa Anita Park.
Good Magic, Audible and followed the Top 2 while Solomini tied for fifth with Justify in this week’s rankings, voted on by representatives of the Daily Racing Form, BloodHorse and NBC, among other leading outlets. Expected to jump into a major Kentucky Derby prep next time out, Justify is one of just two horses in the Top 20 to not have won a graded stakes race.
“Justify’s turn of foot in just his second career start was nothing short of spectacular,” said Churchill Downs track announcer Travis Stone. “Quibbling over the quality of the field is silly in that the goal was more experience and seasoning. He is insanely talented.”
As for the weekend’s other big winners, Enticed, who scored in the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes, came in at No. 7, with Tampa Bay Derby winner Quip 12th. Neither were in the Top 20 last week. Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf champ Mendelssohn, who won on Europe’s Derby trail, also entered the rankings for the first time at No. 17.
McKinzie received nine first-place votes with two going to Solomini, who will make his 3-year-old debut in this weekend’s featured prep, the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park. Two others’ top votes went to Justify.
“I’ve been waiting for a horse to ‘wow’ me all spring,” said one of them, Churchill Downs racing analyst Joe Kristufek, “and on March 11, it finally happened.”
We’ll see next out — potentially in an April 7 showdown with Bolt d’Oro in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby — if Justify’s for real.
“No, I’m not based on the West Coast,” said the Daily Racing Form’s Marty McGee, “but it sure seems like the top Derby prospects are out there — at least right now it does. What a great Derby it’s shaping up to be.”
|Kentucky Derby Media Poll (Week 3)|
|Horse (1st-place votes)||Points||Previous|
|1. Bolt d’Oro (14)||524||2|
|2. McKinzie (9)||513||1|
|3. Good Magic||460||4|
|T5. Solomini (2)||364||5|
|T5. Justify (2)||364||10|
|8. Promises Fulfilled||297||6|
|9. Catholic Boy||290||7|
|10. Avery Island||253||9|
|14. Instilled Regard||159||13|
|T15. Sporting Chance||155||T14|
|T15. My Boy Jack||155||T14|
|18. Magnum Moon||112||16|
|19. Strike Power||92||17|
|20. Free Drop Billy||88||8|
2018 Kentucky Derby Media Poll comments (Week 3)
XBTV’s Zoe Cadman: “The eyes of the horse world were on the San Felipe this weekend , and it didn’t disappoint. Whichever end of the inquiry you were, on I don’t care. What a horse race! Big question is, now how taxing was it?”
Lexington Herald-Leader’s John Clay: “Even if Bolt d’Oro wasn’t declared winner of San Felipe in DQ, I liked the way he ran in 2018 debut. Nothing to knock about McKinzie, either.”
NYRA’s Larry Collmus:“The San Felipe solidified Bolt D’Oro and McKinzie as leaders of the 3- year-old crop. Both showed tenacity. I hope it didn’t take too much out of them.”
WLKY’s Fred Cowgill: “McKinzie has made me a believer after showing a ton of moxy in winning The San Felipe, only to be taken down unfairly. The last time I saw that gutty a performance in a Kentucky Derby prep race was in 1997 when I was at The Santa Anita Derby and witnessed Silver Charm go toe-to-toe with Sharp Cat, refusing to back down. Of course Silver Charm came back to win The Kentucky Derby. McKinzie showed me a ton of heart, barring an injury I believe he’s the one to beat to wear roses May 5.”
Sportsline’s Jody Demling: “Well, that was an eventful weekend of Derby preps. McKinzie lost the DQ but looks like he’s the one to beat moving forward.”
The Downey Profile’s Dick Downey: “I omitted Justify from the poll until now because he hadn’t run two turns yet, but he delivered an impressive two-turn performance on Sunday. I have him at No. 3 and look forward to seeing him compete against stakes-caliber horses.”
TVG’s Britney Eurton: “What. A. Weekend. As expected, there are so many takeaways from this weekend’s Derby preps. The San Felipe showdown lived up to the hype as Bolt d’Oro and McKinzie stamped themselves as the leading Derby contenders. Justify vaulted himself into Derby contention (sans points) after his allowance romp, but before I render him ‘the next coming,’ he needs to face some top-class horses and prove he can overcome adversity. It’s an exciting time of year. Cream rises to the top, and I feel we’re beginning to see the separation!”
WAVE3’s Mike Hartnett: “The San Felipe gave us the top two Derby contenders. I put Bolt d’Oro at the top as he showed a bunch coming off his long layoff.”
BloodHorse’s Alicia Hughes: “Bolt d’Oro and McKinzie cemented what many already believed: that they are the two most talented 3-year-old males currently running. Let’s hope next time they meet, it is settled squarely on the track without controversy.”
Paulick Report’s Scott Jagow: “Keeping McKinzie on top for time being because I don’t believe Bolt d’Oro was getting past him in San Felipe, despite the arbitrary and clearly indecisive ruling by the stewards. That being said, Bolt will have every right to improve second off the layoff. Enticed impressive winner of Gotham, although Derby influence of New York preps is questionable based on history.”
Churchill Downs’ Joe Kristufek: “Apollo might be rolling in his grave, but yes, despite not having a single Kentucky Derby point to date, Justify moves to the top of my list. I’ve been waiting for a horse to ‘wow; me all spring, and on March 11, it finally happened.”
Thoroughbred Daily News’ Ben Massam: “Saturday’s San Felipe firmly established McKinzie and Bolt d’Oro as the leaders of their class to date, and it will be up to the others to bridge the gap over the next two months.”
Daily Racing Form’s Marty McGee: “No, I’m not based on the West Coast, but it sure seems like the top Derby prospects are out there — at least right now it does. What a great Derby it’s shaping up to be.”
The Pressbox’s Gene McLean: “The San Felipe was an impressive duel between two very competitive, if not combative, contestants. This duo has the ability to set up a rivalry that could run right through the Santa Anita Derby; the Kentucky Derby, and entire Triple Crown series. Wouldn’t that be great fun? Another Affirmed vs. Alydar battle? Possible now.”
TimeformUS’s Craig Milkowski: “The San Felipe was clearly the best Kentucky Derby points race of the weekend. From a Derby perspective the disqualification mattered little as the top two have the required points to get in the field. Justify showed on Sunday that he will be a force to be reckoned with as he joins the Derby fray next out.”
Churchill Downs’ Darren Rogers: “Regardless of the controversial outcome, both Bolt d’Oro and McKinzie ran sensational at 1 1/16 miles. Justify continues to impress and isn’t overhyped; he has all the tools. The West is absolutely loaded this year and Solomini gets his chance to shine in Saturday’s Rebel.”
Churchill Downs’ Travis Stone: “Justify’s turn of foot in just his second career start was nothing short of spectacular. Quibbling over the quality of the field is silly in that the goal was more experience and seasoning. He is insanely talented.”
Horse Racing Nation’s Matt Shifman: “Justify was able to shift the entire racing conversation from the Bolt d’Oro and McKinzie controversial finish in the San Felipe after his eye-catching allowance victory.”
Horse Racing Nation’s Mike Shutty: “The Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club now has had several comeback winners with the latest being Enticed via his Gotham Stakes victory. After this weekend’s preps, the Kentucky Derby picture is a bit less murky as McKinize and Bolt d’Oro put on the show that was expected in distancing themselves from the rest of the field. Though it will be his first start of the year, it will be interesting to see if Solomini can continue to validate the strength of the California contingent with a strong effort in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes.”
NYRA’s Maggie Wolfendale: “The San Felipe lived up to its billing as the best and most contentious Derby prep thus far. McKinzie and Bolt d’Oro put on a show that, unfortunately for trainer Bob Baffert, had to be decided in the stewards’ booth.”
Santa Anita Park’s John White: “As a person who has worked as a steward in California (as recently as last year), Washington and Idaho, I would have voted for no DQ in the San Felipe Stakes because the videotape replay of the incident coming into the stretch is sufficiently conclusive to me in that I believe it shows that Bolt d’Oro fouled McKinzie, with the videotape then also showing that McKinzie later fouled Bolt d’Oro in the final sixteenth. In my opinion, inasmuch as each horse fouled the other, I would have voted for no change to the original order of finish. The San Felipe DQ aside, McKinzie and Bolt d’Oro both ran a marvelous race and remain 1-2 for me this week after being 1-2 last week, with the exciting Justify rocketing to No. 3 this week after I had him at No. 14 last week.”
Southern California News Group’s Art Wilson: “Justify might be freakishly good, but there’s a major difference between a maiden victory and a first-level allowance win compared to Churchill Downs and a 20-horse field. Still, he showed Sunday he can ration his speed, and that was huge.”
Horse Racing Nation’s Brian Zipse: “The hype machine is turned up all the way to 11 on Justify, but the hill he still has to climb is enormous.”