No Traffic

- -

Bob Baffert walked down the steps to the winner’s circle, hugged his wife, high-fived an owner and explained his week leading up to the Grade 1 Whitney at Saratoga.

“I was nervous all week,” Baffert said. “I was so nervous about this race.”

Baffert, nervous?

“You know why?” Baffert said. “I didn’t think there was any way he could get beat.”

He couldn’t.

McKinzie might have rattled Baffert’s nerves leading to the $1 million stakes but the 4-year-old colt soothed his soul with a comfortable 1 3/4-length win over Yoshida and Vino Rosso. Second-choice Preservationist led early before fading to fourth.

Owned by Karl Watson, Michael Pegram and Paul Weitman, McKinzie had won three Grade 1 stakes in his 11-race career. But, let’s face it, they were the Los Alamitos Futurity through disqualification, the Pennsylvania Derby over Axelrod and the 7-furlong Malibu over Identity Politics. In the big ones, the son of Street Sense hadn’t rung the bell, fading to 12th in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, missing by a nose in the Santa Anita Handicap in April and checking away the Met Mile in June. The last one stung.

“I was so frustrated after the Met Mile. That’s why I didn’t take him to Dubai, I wanted to win the Met Mile with him,” Baffert said. “When he got beat, I said I have to win a sexy race with him. I’ve got to take him to Saratoga and run a mile and an eighth in the Whitney.”

Hence, the nerves.

To read the rest of the Whitney recap, download Sunday’s digital edition of The Saratoga Special presented by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners.