#11 Good Magic might be the champion two-year-old male of 2017, but he certainly didn’t scare off the competition in Saturday’s $1 million Blue Grass Stakes (gr. II) at Keeneland.
Fifteen horses (including one also-eligible) have been entered in the nine-furlong Road to the Kentucky Derby prep race, with Good Magic the 2-1 morning line favorite. The well-bred son of Curlin showed promise from an early age when finishing second in the Champagne Stakes (gr. I) in just his second start, but his defining moment came in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) at Del Mar, in which he tracked the pace before pulling away in the homestretch to win by 4 ¼ lengths over a very deep field that included Solomini and Bolt d’Oro, both of them serious Derby contenders.
For his Breeders’ Cup effort, Good Magic received a 105 BRIS speed figure, the highest number earned by any horse in the Blue Grass field. But following a winter break, Good Magic ran below form when third in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream last month, failing to mount a serious challenge and fading through the homestretch to finish 4 ½ lengths behind the winner.
However, there are reasons why Good Magic may have faltered, and it was recently reported that Good Magic missed a couple of workouts prior to the Fountain of Youth, possibly leaving him short of his best for the race. With an uninterrupted training schedule since then, I think we’ll see Good Magic step up significantly in the Blue Grass Stakes, and if he runs back to anything resembling his Breeders’ Cup form he should be tough to beat.
#10 Free Drop Billy is also looking to rebound off a sub-par showing in the Gotham Stakes (gr. III) at Aqueduct, in which he met up with a speed-favoring track and could only rally to finish a distant third. Previously, Free Drop Billy ran a huge race when second behind future Florida Derby (gr. I) winner Audible in the Holy Bull Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream, and last year he cruised to a decisive victory over Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) winner Bravazo in the Breeders’ Futurity (gr. I) at Keeneland, so we know he likes this track.
Others to consider are #5 Quip and #12 Flameaway, separated by a length when first and second in the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) last month; and #2 Sporting Chance, third in the Southwest Stakes (gr. III) two starts back and most recently fifth in the Rebel Stakes (gr. II) after enduring a wide trip.
I’ll emphasize Good Magic, Free Drop Billy, and Flameaway in that order while spreading a bit in the exotics, which have the potential to pay nicely due to the large field.