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Mike Smith: If McKinzie doesn't win the Breeders' Cup Classic he'll be second

Mike Smith, within one triumph of equalling Chris McCarron and Jerry Bailey's record haul of Breeders' Cup Classic victories, reckons he has the perfect partner in McKinzie to join his former weighing room counterparts.

Held in the highest regard by leading trainer Bob Baffert, McKinzie was well fancied to make a splash in the 2018 US Triple Crown, but did not make the series and was a well-beaten 12th of 14 in last year's Classic.

However, Smith, talking exclusively to the Racing Post, is convinced the four-year-old – named after Baffert's childhood friend and California racing administrator Brad McKinzie – is ready to show his true worth this time round.

A son of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, McKinzie heads the betting with British and Irish bookmakers at 6-1 for the Classic after his accomplished display in the Whitney Stakes this month.

Speaking from Del Mar on Sunday, Smith, who was eagerly anticipating the ride, said: "I'm here in California this week and go back and forth to New York quite a bit at the moment because we've got all the big two-year-old races and the older-horse races. Everything is getting ready for the Breeders' Cup, all these major prep races.

"I'm hoping we've got the Breeders' Cup Classic winner and McKinzie is doing really well. Hopefully he'll come back and run well and he might just go straight into it without a prep race, but I'm not sure. He runs good off a long layoff as he tends to lose a little bit of weight if you run him too much, so that's an idea they might do. I'm not so sure yet." 

Mike Smith's Breeders' Cup Classic winners

2016 Arrogate
2011 Drosselmeyer
2009 Zenyatta
1997 Skip Away

The Breeders' Cup Classic, staged over a mile and a quarter, takes place at Santa Anita on November 2 and Smith, a US Triple Crown hero on Justify last year, added: "He's getting his chance and hasn't done anything wrong. He's a very hard trier and if he doesn't win he'll be second, but hopefully he's on a winning streak now.

"We'll have to wait and see about his stamina – that's the question mark – but he handled a mile-eighth in the Whitney the other day a whole lot better than he ever has, so if he's going to get a mile and a quarter it'll be now. He's getting stronger and as long as he keeps the weight on he'll go much further.

"Last year we ran him in the Classic, but we'd shipped him to Philadelphia for the Pennsylvania Derby and kind of pushed him to get ready and he lost too much weight.

"He wasn't right for the Breeders' Cup – it wasn't the mile and a quarter. Now he's come back real good and fit and Bob's got good weight on him; he's doing really well. He's four now and very straightforward."

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