Quotes From Chad Brown/Javier Castellano on Mask; Bob Baffert/Mike Smith on McKinzie — Two Big Winners on Saturday

(Photo of McKinzie winning the G3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita / Photo Courtesy of Santa Anita)

Here are some quotes from trainers Chad Brown and Bob Baffert, and jockeys Javier Castellano and Mike Smith after their 3YO colts Mask and McKinzie dominated the Mucho Macho Man at Gulfstream Park and the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita, respectively, on Saturday:

(Chad Brown)

Chad Brown:

“Both starts weren’t a surprise, but we were impressed again. The horse has always trained like he was something special. Again, we learned some things about him. He broke much better in his second start and was able to just go to the lead. He had no problem with a mile,” Brown said. “The way he ran, it looks like he’ll have no problem with two turns either. Very professional. Second start, he handled himself perfect in the paddock and has a wonderful mind on him. Exciting horse.”

Sent to post as the 7-5 favorite in a field of seven 3-year-olds, Mask went straight to the lead after breaking alertly from the starting gate and set an unpressured paced along the backstretch, setting fractions of 24.43 (seconds) and 48.13 for the first half mile. The son of Tapit continued to show the way around the turn and into the stretch before going on to cross the finish line under wraps. Bal Harbour saved ground into the stretch to finish second under John Velazquez, three lengths ahead of Dak Attack, who flattened out through the stretch after making a bid on the last turn under Robby Albarado.

Mask, who was purchased for $685,999 at the 2016 Keeneland September sale, ran the mile in 1:37.65 after covering six furlongs in 1:12.92 and seven-furlongs in 1:25.27.

“I was surprised [to see him on the lead] but not disappointed. I was hoping he’d break well and when I saw that first fraction I knew he’d be pretty tough to beat at that point because he’s been training with really good horses in the morning and he’s been galloping out particularly strong in his works,” Brown said. “The only thing left to see midway through the race was, was the layoff going to hit him the last eighth or not and it didn’t. He just widened.”

Mask gives Brown two exciting Triple Crown prospects, joining Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) winner and Eclipse Award finalist Good Magic.

Gulfstream’s series for 3-year-olds continues with the $350,000 Holy Bull (G2) Feb. 3, followed by the $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2) March 3, and the $1 million Xpressbet.com Florida Derby (G1) April 1.

“No plans yet. I really wanted to just see what happened today, what he got out of this race, how he handled the mile and everything. So far I couldn’t be more pleased with everything. We’ll see how he comes out of the race and go from there,” Brown said. “I do want to try the horse two turns in his next start and find out where we stand as far as putting him on the Derby trail, but right now he looks like he’s firmly on that path.”

(Jodie Vella-Gregory presenting the trophy to Javier Castellano for the Highlander Stakes.)

Jockey Javier Castellano:

“I didn’t expect my horse to run on the lead, I thought he’d run from behind, but the way he ran today was phenomenal. It was a tremendous effort the way he did it. He broke so sharp out of the gate. He’s the kind of horse that is so good mentally and a very mature horse,” Castellano said. “I remember the first time riding him he broke a little slow out of the gate, but now he knows what’s going on in the gate and will have a lot of potential. The most important thing is he’s got such a good mind and is mature with everything he does.”

Mask debuted Oct. 20 at Belmont Park, scoring a three-length off-the-pace victory at 6 ½ furlongs. Saturday, the Kentucky-bred colt was ready to run right from the start of the 7th running of the Mucho Macho Man.

(Photo of Bob Baffert)

Bob Baffert, on McKinzie:

“He just broke, got in a good position, didn’t get rank with the blinkers off. He was good, and when horses come to him, he really gets into the bridle. He got a lot out of this. Last time, he got a little tired at the end. It just goes to show you the Los Alamitos Futurity was a good race. They were good horses.

“He came back to run like we hoped. I was happy. Everything went smooth; that’s what you want. I don’t have to work him that much before the next one. I don’t know (which race it will be). It could be the San Felipe (Grade II, $400,000, 1 1/16 miles March 10). We’ll try and get two (races) into him. I think he showed more maturity today. We sort of had had to rush into his earlier races.

“If he’d have relaxed in the Los Al Futurity . . . he got a little rank but he got a lot out of it. He was really tired that day, but he came back and worked extremely well for this race. I told (part owner) Mike Pegram I wanted to run him again and get a two-turn race into him. Everybody thought he was supposed to win easy or whatever at Los Al . . . The track’s been good here and I think he was more manageable without the blinkers.”

(Mike Smith)

Jockey Mike Smith:

 “He was a bit too aggressive last time. Today, he seemed to relax early, then he jumped when I asked, so taking the blinkers off today, I thought we might as well try it and I think it was a great move.“He’s getting better as he matures. He ran a tremendous race in only his second time out last time at Los Al. The horses he ran with that day were top horses and we thought he’d move forward off of that race and he did today.

“I smooched to him just to keep him interested but going past the wire he was well within himself and galloped out nicely.”

Obviously that would be a huge ask, but as far as we’re concerned the dream is still alive at the moment.

Trainer Jamie Osborne, after the 6-year-old Toast of New York returned from a 1,130-day layoff to win a 11/4-mile dirt race at England’s Lingfield Park earlier this week, and his chances of returning to the United States — where he ran second in the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic — for the 2018 Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park
  • Gene McLean

    Gene McLean

    Gene McLean began his professional career in 1977 as a sportswriter and columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky., and was recognized as one of the state’s best writers, winning the prestigious “Sportswriter of the Year” honor in 1985. Now the President and Publisher of The Pressbox, McLean sets ...

    Full Bio >

More From Gene McLean