What we learned: McKinzie's No. 1 post-Preservationist Woodward

September 01, 2019 03:00pm
What we learned: McKinzie's No. 1 post-Preservationist Woodward
Photo: Rob Mauhar/NYRA
Preservationist showed a ton of heart in capturing the Woodward Stakes (G1) on Saturday at Saratoga. But looking at the race as a whole objectively, the Woodward falls far below McKinzie's Whitney Stakes (G1) win earlier in August.

To start off, Preservationist won by half a length over Bal Harbour, who lost to the aging War Story in the Monmouth Cup (G3) in his previous start.

Additionally, only 1 3/4 lengths separated the first four Woodward finishers in all, which is another bad sign. The trouble Preservationist encountered on his way to the wire is noted, though.

The way all four horses ran clumped together at the end makes the Woodward finish look like a typical turf race. It had the eventual winner Preservationist waiting for a hole, and Yoshida moving late outside.

In dirt racing, impressive performances are signaled by wider margins.

McKinzie also won the Whitney by 1 3/4 lengths over Yoshida. But in that race, 4 3/4 lengths separated Yoshida and third-place finisher Vino Rosso, and another 1 1/4 lengths separated Vino Rosso and Preservationist, who finished 7 3/4 lengths behind McKinzie. The margins had better spacing.

Furthermore, McKinzie won easily with only some light encouragement after putting away Preservationist at the top of the stretch.

Preservationist's aggressive tactics in the Whitney were a mistake, though, which jockey Junior Alvarado admitted later on and fixed in the Woodward

Even still, McKinzie is miles ahead of Preservationist and most horses in the Older Male division that culminates with the Breeders' Cup Classic. The one exception might be Thunder Snow, who is back in Europe after scratching from the Whitney but still has the Classic as his goal.

It is possible Preservationist will improve at 1 1/4 miles in the Nov. 2 race at Santa Anita, while McKinzie could regress in the same distance scenario. Remember, McKinzie did run a dismal 12th last year.

But, it is also likely McKinzie went into last year's Breeders' Cup unprepared to tackle older horses at a longer distance. It was, after all, just his second race back from injury. And from a pedigree standpoint, there is nothing strong indicating he cannot handle a longer distance.

If that last point is true, then Preservationist and company will need to step up their game to contend. Not only will they face McKinzie again, but Maximum Security and other 3-year-olds such as Mr. Money and Code of Honor have every reason to move forward as they mature.

With McKinzie proving he can beat the east, he'll have an opportunity to go up against Pacific Classic (G1) winner Higher Power, among others out west, in the Awesome Again (G1) as a final prep for the Classic.

Meanwhile, although lightly raced, it's no certainty that 6-year-old Preservationist can turn in a better race than he did in his Woodward and Suburban (G2) wins this summer.

Royal Charlotte receives setup in Prioress win

Pace handicappers may want to look at the Prioress Stakes (G2) results earlier in the Saratoga card.

In a race won by Royal Charlotte, Break Even opened in 21.87 and 44.76, which are fast fractions for Saratoga. TimeformUS marked every opening fraction in red.

From a visual standpoint, the race does not show the markings of a usual fast race since the field is grouped together early.

But all these fillies had shown speed or tactical speed in the past. Older maidens opened in 22.23 and 45.03 for the same distance later in the card, which signals 21.87 and 44.76 are indeed fast fractions. 

Break Even had a right to get tired toward the end, leaving the door open for Royal Charlotte to tip out and take advantage late. She did and won.

But give Break Even credit for running hard from start to finish. From a pace standpoint, she arguably ran just as good or better than Royal Charlotte.

For further proof, TimeformUS gave Break Even a 117, while only awarding Royal Charlotte a 112.

Bast romps in Del Mar Debutante

How good did Bast run in breaking her maiden in the Del Mar Debutante (G1) for trainer Bob Baffert? Unfortunately, the TimeformUS Speed Figure is not released yet, but there are other good signs to point out.

For one, she won by a whopping 8 ¾ lengths over Inspiressa.

In fact, Bast looked in another league than Inspiressa once she made her move. 

Yet, Inspiressa beat her previously in a 5 ½-furlong maiden race. This only shows that Bast improved stretching out to seven furlongs and liked the addition of blinkers for her second start.

Inspiressa deserves some credit for contesting the pace along with Stellar Sound and Leucothea, and winning the battle as those two fillies faded far behind. But she offered no fight when Bast ranged up to challenge.

In keeping with the theme of this post, 9 ¼ lengths separated the first four finishers in Bast's win, and a whopping 29 lengths separated the field in all.

Beyer only gave Bast an 85 Beyer Speed Figure, though. Wait for the TimeformUS figure, as it might turn out faster.

Regardless, it is clear Bast ran a sharp race and owns a bright future. At this point, she is arguably the favorite for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.


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