Higher Power Tackles Familiar Foes, McKinzie
Photo Copyright Eclipse Sportswire
By Emily Shields for TVG
When a horse wins a major grade 1 race such as the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic by over five lengths, he is usually afforded a great deal of respect. But Higher Power was relatively unknown heading into that 1 ¼-mile race, and will be out to prove that his smashing victory under jockey Flavien Prat wasn’t a fluke. He gets his chance in the $300,000 Awesome Again (G1) at Santa Anita on Saturday.
Last year, the Awesome Again produced Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Accelerate, who was trained by John Sadler and owned by Hronis Racing. That same team campaigns Higher Power, a four-year-old son of Medaglia d’Oro. He has had a solid 2019 campaign with three wins from seven starts and a stakes placing. While he has defeated several of the runners, such as Draft Pick, Mongolian Groom, and Seeking the Soul, he now has to go toe to toe with current $6 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic leader McKinzie.
McKinzie has run at Santa Anita six times, with three wins and three second place efforts to show for it. Mike Smith will be aboard the Bob Baffert runner, who races for Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman. He is coming off a win in the Whitney (G1) at Saratoga over this 1 1/8-mile distance in a sharp time. Mike Smith stays aboard, giving up the mount on top East Coast filly Midnight Bisou over at Belmont Park. McKinzie was a grade 1 winner over this surface in December, and missed by a nose in the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) here in April.
Looking to rebound from his disappointing Pacific Classic showing will be Seeking the Soul. The Dallas Stewart-trainee won the Stephen Foster (G2) at Churchill Downs before running seventh at Del Mar, and could have stayed home in Kentucky to run in the Lukas Classic (G3) on the same day, but is getting a Breeders’ Cup prep over the surface. He worked here on September 21, going five furlongs in 1:00.4.
Draft Pick was a 13-1 surprise running second in the Pacific Classic, but he has always done well in stakes company. Peter Eurton trains the C R K Stable runner, who won the Affirmed (G3) last year, ran second by a head in the Los Alamitos Derby (G3), and second in the West Virginia Derby (G3). This year he returned off a layoff to win an allowance, then finished third behind Catalina Cruiser in the San Diego Handicap (G2) and second in the Pacific Classic. He has three wins in six tries over the track.
Mongolian Groom and Isotherm round out the six-horse field.
The Awesome Again has a rich history with winners going on to score in the Breeders’ Cup including Mucho Macho Man, Pleasantly Perfect, Ferdinand, and Tiznow. Game On Dude, who scored in 2011 and 2012, went on to be favored in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, as did Shared Belief (2014) and California Chrome (2016).
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On Saturday, the Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap will top a great card at Belmont Park with five graded stakes and once again bring several of the nation’s best horses together for a one-mile showdown.
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Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series Features Metropolitan Handicap from Belmont Park This Saturday Live at 5 PM on NBC
Led by Code of Honor, McKinzie and Vekoma, an outstanding field of eight horses will compete for a free berth into the $2 million Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) on Saturday, July 4 in the 1-mile, $500,000 Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap.