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Mackenzie To Make NA Debut

Published: February 23, 2017 12:36 pm ET

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Driver Jordan Stratton sat behind five-year-old mare Mackenzie for the first time last Friday (February 17) as she faced the starting gate for a qualifier at Yonkers Raceway. Starting from Post 6, she paced evenly in the early stages before sprinting home late. She posted her final quarter in :27.1 and finished fourth. Although it was her first outing since having finished second in the Breeders Crown for three-year-old fillies at Australia’s Tabcorp Park Melton on August 28, the effort pleased Stratton.

“I was happy with it. Pete just wanted to run her home a little bit. She did it pretty easily,” Stratton said. “She seems like the real deal to me. It’s tough to tell off one qualifier, but she seems good.”

The latest import to join to ranks of trainer Pete Tritton, Mackenzie – who raced as ‘My Mackenzie’ Down Under – is already an accomplished mare. She won eight of 19 starts Down Under, including the Group 2 Alabar NSW Breeders Challenge Blue Stakes for three-year-old fillies, and placed in another seven races en route to A$121,861 in earnings. The November 18, 2012 foal by Rock N Roll Heaven out of Kept For Pleasure took her mark of 1:52.4 at Tabcorp Park Menagle last May. Now, her connections are eager to launch her North American campaign in Friday’s sixth race $50,000 Filly and Mare Open Handicap Pace at Yonkers Raceway.

Mackenzie – Group 2 Alabar NSW Breeders Challenge Blue Stakes

July 16, 2016 – Tabcorp Park – Australia

“She’s probably not 100 per cent, but Jordan said to put her in,” Tritton said. “He was very excited about (the qualifier) and said she’s a real good mare. That was pleasing. I haven’t done a lot with her, but she does feel very impressive driving her.”

Mackenzie first caught Tritton’s eye when he noticed her in a replay. Soon, he got a call from a friend tipping him off that she was for sale. Tritton purchased Mackenzie and shipped her to the United States just before Christmas. Now two months later, she will make her stateside debut heading into this weekend.

“She looked like a nice horse and looked like she could go around Yonkers, which is the main criteria,” Tritton explained. “She’s a big mare, but she seems to get around the tracks good. She’s got plenty of class. She’s fairly young. It’s a shame she’s got to start up in the top class, but she’s won so much money that she has to start up there for a while.”

Preparing a horse for her first races in such short order after crossing the equator is challenging, but Tritton’s experience training in both Australia and the United States gives him an advantage. He understands horses must cope with drastic changes in seasons and differences in training methodologies. Above all, the process takes patience.

“The seasons are exactly the opposite. When we get one in the middle of winter here like we did with her, it was completely in summer there, so it was pretty hard,” Tritton explained. “I just let the horse tell me. You just have to do the best with them that you can during that time and be prepared to back off of them and not work them too hard.

“I’m a little bit fortunate because I know how they’re trained there and I know how they’re trained here, so I can sort of put them together a bit,” Tritton continued. “Whereas some guys who haven’t trained over there just train them the way they know here and it’s not really the same.”

While Tritton says it takes a horse a full year to fully acclimatize after changing hemispheres, the experience they gain in their first few starts is pivotal to ensuring a smooth transition. In this way, patience in the sulky pays off as well. Stratton will employ a proven strategy in handling Australian horses for the first time: take them off the gate and let them finish strongly. As he puts it, “get the most money the easiest I can do it.

“It’s all new to them. New country, new weather in the different hemisphere,” Stratton said. “One or two bad experiences in their first start and it kind of screws them for the rest of their career, but once you get past the first few starts, they’re usually ok.”

Tritton is eager to see how Mackenzie fares in Friday’s Filly and Mare Open Handicap, where she’ll start from Post 4 as a 15-1 outsider on the morning line. A good effort could land her a chance in the upcoming Bluechip Matchmaker Series alongside stablemate Sell A Bit.

“I think I’ll put her in the Bluechip,” he said. “I think she has the ability to go in it no problems at all, I just hope that I don’t tap her out the first season because she’s a young mare, but we’ll see how it goes.”

While last week’s Filly and Make Open Handicap winner Bedroomconfessions is absent this week, Mackenzie will still face a full field in the distaff feature. Mach It A Par, the 3-1 morning line choice, will make her second start of the year after having finished third in last week’s feature. Last week’s preferred winner, Tessa Seelster, will start from Post 8 and is 7-2. Filly and Mare Open runner up last out, Empress Deo, is 4-1 and will start from Post 5. Lispatty, For The Ladies, Regil Elektra, and Shesjustadelight complete the field. First post is 7:10 p.m.

(SOANY)


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