Victory in the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 22 put McKinzie’s lifetime record at four victories and a second from five starts. The great question of his ranking among his contemporaries, however, will remain a mystery: How would he have fared against Justify?

With the pro tem champion and Horse of the Year standing on golden straw at Ashford Stud outside Versailles, Ky., McKinzie will have to test his elders alone and perhaps give the racing public and breeders a line on their comparative merits through his success in that endeavor.

Even that line of form will remain a conjecture, at best, because Justify never faced an older horse, and in fact, his entire stakes career was bracketed by the time that McKinzie was on the sidelines with a bruised hock.

In late March, McKinzie was scratched from the upcoming Santa Anita Derby, in which he would have been favored, and then-allowance winner Justify took up the mantle of unbeaten G1 winner in that race and wore it through the Triple Crown.

And, while we chew on the leathery pigskin of disappointment that the two never met, trainer Bob Baffert has apparently returned McKinzie to high-class form and left something for the colt to progress on in his upcoming races.

That is excellent news for racing and for breeders with an interest in these horses. Should McKinzie remain sound and progress well against his elders, he should be able to provide quality racing through his 4-year-old season and test next year’s classic generation, as well.

If so, McKinzie will be following a career path quite similar to that of his grandsire, the Machiavellian horse Street Cry. Third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at 2, Street Cry won the UAE 2,000 Guineas at 3 and then was sidelined before the American classics that had long been his intended destination. The heavily constructed dark bay returned to race well as a 4-year-old, when he won the G1 Dubai World Cup and Stephen Foster, then was second in the Whitney Stakes.

That first-rate 4-year-old season propelled Street Cry to a stud career at Darley‘s Jonabell Farm. There he sired Horse of the Year Zenyatta and Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense. Also standing at Jonabell, Street Sense has been his sire’s best son at stud, and McKinzie is the best son of Street Sense.

Bred in Kentucky by Summer Wind Farm, McKinzie sold for $170,000 at the 2016 Keeneland September sale to Three Amigos and races for Karl Watson, Mike Pegram, and Paul Weitman. Their star racer is out of the Petionville mare Runway Model, winner of the (then) G2 Alcibiades Stakes and G2 Golden Rod Stakes at 2, then third in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. The next season, the mare was second in the G1 Ashland.

The Ashland proved to be Runway Model’s most notable effort at 3, and as a 4-year-old, in foal for the first time, and on a cover to nothing less than Storm Cat himself, Runway Model sold at the 2006 Keeneland November sale for $2.7 million to Summer Wind.

The foal that Runway Model was carrying is the winning mare Couture Cat, dam of the stakes-placed High Fashion Diva and one of five winners out of the dam. McKinzie is Runway Model’s seventh live foal, and he is her first stakes winner and major performer.

Runway Model is one of the best performers by her sire, the Seeking the Gold stallion Petionville, the sire of 46 stakes winners, including Alabama Stakes winner Island Fashion and Two Step Salsa, winner of the Godolphin Mile and third in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. Based in Kentucky at Crestwood Farm for most of his stallion career, and now in Maryland at Murmur Farm, Petionville worked hard at creating a robust niche for himself in the ultra-competitive stallion market. He probably ranks as the second-best son of his sire behind only Dubai Millennium, the sire of a single crop but one that included classic winner and leading international sire Dubawi.

With McKinzie’s first three dams all being stakes winners and possessing a pedigree full of racehorses and racehorse sires, McKinzie is going to be a fascinating horse to watch develop over the next year and earn a significant place at stud in the process.