A champion racehorse is back in the spotlight, and not a moment too soon.
The horse in question is Good Magic, the champion two-year-old male of 2017 based off a powerful win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I). Long viewed as one of the main contenders for the upcoming Kentucky Derby, Good Magic disappointed his backers when third in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) last month, but he didn’t receive the best of trips that day and reportedly missed a couple of workouts during the winter, giving him excuses for his sub-par showing.
Saturday’s $1 million Blue Grass Stakes (gr. II) at Keeneland was an opportunity for Good Magic to get back on track and restore his reputation, and while he had to work for it, he got the job done against a large field of thirteen rivals.
Elements of Good Magic’s performance were excellent. With Jose Ortiz in the saddle, the son of Curlin settled nicely in fifth place early on, about four lengths behind fractions of :23.55 and :47.40 set by the front-running pair of Flameaway and Arawak. Good Magic then advanced smoothly while racing wide through a quick third quarter-mile, moving up to challenge Flameaway before taking over the lead in the homestretch.
From that moment on, the Blue Grass was a wild event. Good Magic forged to a 1 ½-length advantage passing the eighth pole, but changed back to his left lead late in the race and failed to extend his advantage over the stubborn Flameaway, who stayed on gamely to finish second.
Meanwhile, behind the leaders, last year’s Hopeful Stakes (gr. I) winner Sporting Chance was under pressure to maintain third position, and after lugging in substantially during the first part of the homestretch, he bolted sharply to the outside passing the sixteenth pole, interfering with the late-running Breeders’ Futurity (gr. I) winner Free Drop Billy, who was attempting to close ground on the far outside. Sporting Chance crossed the wire in third place, but was subsequently disqualified and placed fourth, a fortunate outcome for Free Drop Billy, who needed at least a third-place finish to secure a spot in the Kentucky Derby field.
The erratic actions in the homestretch were reflected in the final time and closing fractions. Good Magic ran the last furlong in a modest :13.31 seconds and stopped the clock in 1:50.18, earning a 98 BRIS speed figure, 16 points lower than the number posted by Justify in the Santa Anita Derby.
Good Magic will likely need to take another step forward to contend for victory in the Kentucky Derby, but I think such improvement is well within the realm of possibility. The Derby will mark Good Magic’s third start of the year, and trainer Chad Brown has done excellent work in the past preparing horses for the Derby off of just two prep runs. I think Good Magic got what he needed out of the Blue Grass and will be poised for a peak effort in the Derby; the only question is whether his peak will be good enough to win what is shaping up to be one of the best Derbies in years.