McKinzie will join three other Grade 1-winners, Thunder Snow, Vino Rosso, and Yoshida, during the running of the Grade 1, $1 million Whitney on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course. McKinzie has been installed as the favorite at 7-5 odds.
This will be the 92nd running of the ‘Win and You’re In’ Whitney, a 1 1/8-mile race. It is a qualifier for the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 2 at Santa Anita Park.
McKinzie, a 4-year-old colt, is owned by Karl Watson, Michael Pegram, and Paul Weitman, and he is trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, who is looking for his first Whitney win. McKinzie won the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity as a juvenile, and he also won Grade-1 races such as the Pennsylvania Derby at Parx and the Malibu at Santa Anita.
In his more recent runnings, he finished first in the Grade 2 Alysheba at Churchill Downs on May 3. He has also finished second in three of his four starts that included the Grade 2 San Pasqual and the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap that ran in April.
McKinzie’s most recent race was the Grade 1 Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap. He was tripped up and crossed the line second. Baffert spoke about the horse’s recent training at Del Mar.
“He breezed here yesterday, and we thought it went really well,” he said. “We’re excited and really looking forward to running in this race. He’s trained forwardly since the Met Mile, and he’s come out of that race really well. It’s unfortunate we didn’t get the trip we really wanted there, but now going a mile and eighth hopefully will give him a little more time to work out a better trip.”
McKinzie’s jockey will be Hall of Famer Mike Smith, the winner of the Whitney in 1993 with Brunswick. Baffert trained Sarave in 2004, the horse that went on to win the Whitney that year.
“It’s certainly a prestigious race, and it would mean a lot to have it on McKinzie’s resume,” Baffert said. “It looks like a very good competitive field, so we’re hoping we can run our race and get a little out of racing luck as well. It’s certainly exciting. I’ve only run in the race once previously, and that was with a horse we were just hoping we could finish in the money with. It’s nice to come in here among this good field with a shot at winning it.”
Others in the Field
Godolphin’s Thunder will also be racing on Saturday at Saratoga. He is the richest thoroughbred in training, and his current earnings sit at $16,511,476. He has won various Group 1-races, including the last two runnings of the Group 1 Dubai World Cup. He has yet to win a race in North America.
The last times that Godolphin’s Thunder ran in the U.S. were at the 2017 Grade 1 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, the 2018 Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont, the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill, and the Metropolitan Handicap.
Vino Russo, trained by Todd Pletcher, has won two of three starts in this campaign. He won at the Stymie at Aqueduct Racetrack in his seasonal debut. His jockey will be Hall of Famer John Velazquez, and they will be breaking from post 5 at 6-1 odds. Velazquez has won the Whitney four times.
Yoshida will be trying to beat out the other impressive horses. He is trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, and he is a Grade 1 winner on dirt and turf. Yoshida won the Turf Classic at Churchill Downs in 2018, scored in the Grade 1 Woodward at Saratoga, finished sixth in the Dubai World Cup in March, and crossed sixth again at the Grade 2 Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs.
His jockey will be Jose Ortiz, and they are going to break from post 7 at 10-1 odds.
It will be an exciting day at Saratoga as the horses battle each other for the $1 million Whitney.