Saturday’s Grade 1, $250,000 Bing Crosby Stakes at Del Mar is a Challenge Series “Win & You’re In” qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint this fall and as such 10 horses, including three shipping in from other tracks, signed on to contend. Leading the field in terms of accomplishments is McKinzie, who has banked $3.4 million while winning eight of 17 races, winning the Grade 2 Triple Bend Stakes in June before a poor fifth-place effort as the favorite in the Grade 1 Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap last month. Believe it or not, this will be McKenzie’s first race ever at six furlongs, compared to others who are multiple winners at the distance. Another horse with eight career wins is Anyportinastorm, a five-time stakes winner coming off a sizzling effort in the Oak Tree Sprint Stakes in Northern California. Lexitonian ships out from New York where one week ago he was set to run in the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap, only to be scratched at the gate when he was unsettled following another horse breaking through the gate. Last May, Lexitonian won the Grade 3 Chick Lang Stakes and brings a 4-for-12 record into the race.
Wildman Jack is a lightly raced 4-year-old with a 4-for-9 record. He won the Grade 3 Daytona Stakes on turf in May and fits if he can transform that effort to the dirt surface he’s running over for the first time. Heartwood is proven in top company with eight wins in 32 races including the King Cotton Stakes in February and the Steel Valley Sprint a couple of years back. Fashionably Fast won a number of stakes races for California-bred horses only last fall and most recently finished second to McKinzie in the Triple Bend, so he may have a say in the outcome. The depth of the field doesn’t end there as Desert Law makes his second start after being away from the races for 11 months and finished second, beaten just a half-length, in last year’s Bing Crosby before the layoff. P R Radio Star brings a 9-for-29 record in to the race and is racing in a stakes race for the first time but enters the Bing Crosby off a strong win over the track three weeks ago. Law Abidin Citizen won the Grade 3 Longacres Mile last summer and also comes into the race off a strong victory. Three-year-old Collusion Illusion rounds out the field, having proved himself at the level with a win in the Grade 3 Lazaro Barrera Stakes last month.
It’s fairly obvious to this handicapper where Anyportinastorm will be once the gate opens, which is in front. Winner of eight races from 16 starts, Anyportinastorm has won his last four races at six to 6 ½ furlongs, the last three while leading from the start. His one defeat on dirt in the last year came when second, beaten a head by Law Abidin Citizen, in the Longacres Mile. Having earned 118 and 114 Equibase Speed Figures in his last two wins, the latter in the Oak Tree Sprint Stakes on July 4, Anyportinastorm stacks up fantastically well with likely betting favorite McKinzie, who earned 117 and 114 figures in his last two races. Better still, the 114 figure Anyportinastorm earned in the Oak Tree Sprint is the same figure Cistron earned winning the 2019 Bing Crosby. Jockey Juan Hernandez, a top rider in Northern California for years, shifted his tack to Del Mar starting this summer and has done well, but more importantly he’s very familiar with Anyportinastorm, having ridden the horse to six wins in 13 races. He’s had two local workouts at Del Mar to get used to the surface, and with blistering early speed, Anyportinastorm can add his first graded stakes win to his résumé in this year’s Bing Crosby Stakes.
Wildman Jack is a lightly raced 4-year-old who has only run on turf. Amassing a strong record of four wins in nine tries, Wildman Jack ran his best race ever in May, one race before last, when winning the Daytona Stakes with a 115 figure. In that race, Wildman Jack rallied from fourth to get up by a nose, and so if Anyportinastorm gets pace pressure or just can’t lead from start to finish it appears likely Wildman Jack can get the job done. I have no qualms about his ability to run as well on dirt because his most recent workout at Del Mar on July 26 was the best of 107 on the day for four furlongs. Additionally, his sire, Goldencents, won the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in both 2013 and 2014 and was also second both years in the Bing Crosby.
Desert Law returned from 11 months on the sidelines in June and rallied for third in the Thor’s Echo Stakes with a 107 figure. In 2019, when making his second start off a layoff from the previous year, Desert Law won the Thor’s Echo Stakes with a 119 figure which is one of the best in the field. Following his win last year in the Thor’s Echo, Desert Law finished second, beaten just a half-length, in the 2019 Bing Crosby with a 113 figure. The pattern for improvement second off the layoff is easily identifiable and so Desert Law deserves strong consideration as a contender to win this race.
McKinzie will very likely to go post as the betting favorite as he has in his last 10 races. However, noting that he has only won three of those races, it is tough to consider a win bet at low odds in my opinion. Additionally, McKinzie has never raced at this six furlong distance in 17 starts, beginning his career at seven furlongs and running that distance or more in every race. Last month in the Metropolitan Handicap, McKinzie disappointed badly when fifth as the favorite. Prior to that, he won the Triple Bend Stakes at seven furlongs with a 117 figure. No matter how talented a horse McKinzie is, he’s up against some true professionals at this six-furlong trip and he does not have any advantage in terms of how fast he’s run, with six of the others having earned Equibase Speed Figures of 113 to 119. With that in mind, I believe the three horses above all have a higher probability to win than McKinzie although there’s no doubt he could be in the thick of the action in the final stages of the race. (Trainer Bob Baffert told BloodHorse Wednesday that he would scratch McKinzie from the Bing Crosby and point him to another race later in August.)
The rest of the field, with their best Equibase Speed Figures, is Collusion Illusion (106), Fashionably Fast (114), Heartwood (113), Law Abidin Citizen (118), Lexitonian (106) and P R Radio Star (113).