Both McKinzie in the $1 million Whitney at Saratoga and Mr. Money in the $500,000 West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer easily blew away the competition Saturday. Bettors were heavily backing both at the windows and were not disappointed. The competition in both races came out fighting, but were no match for either winner.

Where is everybody? Mr. Money, Gabriel Saez in the saddle, proved to be a romping, open-lengths winner in the West Virginia Derby. (Image: Coady Photo)

In addition to the winner’s share of the purse, McKinzie’s connections get an all-expenses paid trip to the Breeders Cup Classic at Santa Anita the first Saturday in November. Mr. Money, now the winner of four straight second-level restricted stakes for three-year-olds, is leaving his trainer and owners wondering if they should have let their horse have a crack at the division’s upper-echelon colts in the $1.25 million Travers Stakes. The “Midsummer Derby” is Aug. 24 and is the highlight of the Saratoga summer season.

Bettors found slim pickings in the pari-mutuel realm with both McKinzie — $3.70-$2.70-$2.10 — and Mr. Money — $3.00-$2.40-$2.20 — proving highly worthy of their extreme favoritism. Both races are 1 1/8 mile events.

‘Big Money Mike’ Strikes Again

Mckinzie, under Mike Smith, found his path to the winner’s circle less difficult because of the early morning scratch of Thunder Snow. The European-based veteran is the world’s richest horse in training with earnings of more than $16 million. Yet, he’s never won a race in North America. A cough and a slight fever after a pre-race exercise session Saturday morning causing the scratch.

Those remaining simply lack the winner’s class, speed or stamina as Smith, known as “Big Money Mike” because of his proclivity to win important, highly lucrative races, glided home a nearly two-length winner under an easy hand ride.

There’s no question now that Bob Baffert’s versatile trainee is the top older distance horse in the US.

From Hall of Famer Baffert afterwards:

“I’ve always thought he’s the best horse in the country,” said Baffert. I think he’s getting better and better and as long as he’s getting better that’s the main thing. I’m glad that he got the right trip and Mike [Smith, jockey] said he’s got him figured out now. He rode him with a lot of confidence. He can be on or off the lead.”

How Good is Mr. Money? Find out in Pennsylvania

Mr. Money’s position in the glamor three-year-old division remains in question because trainer Bret Calhoun in concert with ownership has spent the past few months avoiding the likes of Haskell winner Maximum Security, Tax, War of Will, Tacitus and the other division kingpins.

Mr. Money is certainly banking big cash — now a winner of a million dollars plus — blowing away the lesser lights of the division. But he is still not class-tested to the chagrin of bettors. His romping six-length triumph only proves that fans will be wondering why Calhoun and company didn’t give Mr. Money the Travers’ opportunity.

Expect to see the gelding next trying to pad his bankroll in the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby in mid September. Calhoun is letting it be known that’s where he’ll be if Maximum Security and the others want a piece of his son of Goldencents.

To see the full chart of the Whitney Stakes, click here. To view the West Virginia Derby chart, click here.