Good Magic Back on Top in Toyota Blue Grass Stakes
Stalks Pace, Pounces at Top of Stretch
By Dick Downey
Good Magic redeemed his status as 2-year-old Champion winning the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes after stalking the early pace set by Flameaway. Flameaway hung on to finish a determined second.
The two broke adjacent to each other near the outside of the gate, and Flameaway, ridden by Jose Lezcano, sprinted to the lead. Good Magic and Jose Ortiz were never far back as Flameaway set the pace with fractions of 23.55 for the first quarter-mile, 47.40 for the half and 1:11.89 for six furlongs while saving ground all the way. Arawak hounded Flameaway through the backstretch before giving way, at which point it was Good Magic in closest pursuit with Sporting Chance close by in third.
Turning for home, Flameaway maintained a slim lead. Good Magic drew nearer and took over in upper stretch With an eighth of a mile to go in the 1 1/8-mile race, Good Magic led by 1 1/2 length, with Sporting Chance another 1 1/2 length back in third.
Flameaway gamely held on for second, beaten the same margin that he trailed at the furlong marker. In the middle of the track, Sporting Chance challenged Flameaway nearing the wire but suddenly bolted to his right under a left-handed whip from Luis Saez. He finished third, beaten 3 1/4 lengths, but he impeded Free Drop Billy and Irad Ortiz, Jr, who closed from 12th position after a half-mile to be beaten four lengths, and was disqualified from third to fourth by stewards.
When all was said and done, the final time for the race was 1:50.18.
Trained by Chad Brown, Good Magic finished a dull third in the Fountain of Youth Stakes, his 2018 debut. He had 34 Kentucky Derby points going into today's race, many of them earned winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile in his final start of 2017. He picked up 100 more points for winning the Blue Grass.
Flameaway, from the Mark Casse barn, had 30 Derby points before the race and now has 70, more than enough to make the Run for the Roses. By virtue of Sporting Chance's disqualification, Free Drop Billy earned 20 points instead of 10. That ran his total to 44 points instead of 34, and as a result it looks like he has a spot in the Derby starting gate instead of being on the verge of the outside looking in.
The Kentucky Derby dreams of Sporting Chance were dashed. He now has a total of 12 Derby points, not enough to make the field unless something extraordinary happens.
Blended Citizen finished fifth in the Blue Grass, beaten 4 3/4 lengths, followed by Kanthaka, Tiz Mischief, Marconi, Zing Zang, California Night, Gotta Go, Machismo, Determinant and Arawak.
The winner's share of the $1 million purse, $600,000, goes to owners eFive Racing Thoroughbreds and Barbara Banke's Stonestreet Stables LLC. Good Magic was bred in Kentucky by Stonestreet. The son of Curlin is out of the Hard Spun mare Glinda the Good.
Good Magic was the 2-1 morning line favorite, and he was the 8-5 favorite when the gates opened. He paid $5.20, $3.60 and $2.80 on $2 tickets.
After the race, Brown said Good Magic would stay at Keeneland for a couple of weeks more or less before heading to Churchill Downs. Flameaway is likely to be vanned to Louisville in the near future, and Free Drop Billy will take up residence in trainer Dale Romans' barn 4 at Churchill.
Winning trainer Chad Brown" “In hindsight, he was probably a couple of works short. If you want to stay on the (Kentucky) Derby trail, you have to run when it’s time to get started. This horse came out of that race real well – bigger, stronger and has had some impressive workouts since. We were pretty confident coming into this race. I love the way he did it today. We’ll get him over to Churchill and give him at least one work over the track and hopefully get him out to a mile and a quarter and hopefully he can handle it.
“Jose rides this horse so well, and once again he put him in a position to win the race. I loved where he was all throughout the race – became a matter of is he good enough and fit enough today?
“I thought it was an outstanding performance. He was well-placed early and kept steady throughout. Maybe we dock one point where it looked like he jumped a shadow near the wire, but that’s him. He’s going to look around a little bit. I was really happy how he ran today. For only two starts this year, I was hoping to be peaking for the Derby and hopefully we’ll advance another step on Derby Day. Looks like is a very good crop of horses this year and it’s going to be a tough race.
“This is our first Blue Grass (win) – we ran second the last two years. Once you get a little taste of that – Keeneland in the spring – you start looking to bring one back next year to win this race. It’s important – I’m so happy to win this race.”
“I was worried (about snow this morning). The timing for the Derby – I really don’t’ want to run beyond today. As happens in Kentucky, it can change by the hour. Thankfully it turned out to be a wonderful day.
“He seems to love Keeneland. I’m going to think about it, talk to my staff about it, talk to my team. Right now, I’m leaning toward leaving him here a couple of weeks, maybe getting his first breeze out of the way here, on a track I know he likes. Then get him over to Churchill – he’ll have at least one work at Churchill.”
Winning rider Jose Ortiz: “It was perfect, we had a good trip. We broke really well and everything went really well. The way I planned was to sit back a little bit off the front and everything turned out perfect. I was pretty confident on him because I know he’s a good horse out of the gate. I knew he was going to help me a lot and I was going to have a clear road to the first turn. It means a lot. I really love Keeneland, I’m going to stay here for the whole meet. I really want to win a title here.”
Mark Casse (trainer of Flameaway): “He never gave up. He’s just so classy, you’ve got to love him. I got what I asked for. I said I wanted a fight at the top of the lane, and we got one. Unfortunately, we were second-best today. I think Chad did a tremendous job. It’s one thing to train a horse to be a champion, and another to train them after they’re champions. We’ve beaten the winner of the Wood twice already. I think we can hold our head high. He will be heading home (to Churchill Downs) probably tomorrow.”
Jose Lezcano (rider of runner-up Flameaway): “I got pressured the whole way around; he never got a breather. And you see, he's very tough. He keeps running and he kept trying. I was happy to see him do well.”
Irad Ortiz Jr. (rider of Free Drop Billy): “He ran a good race. When I ask him, he goes. I finished fourth, but he ran a good race. He did everything I wanted him to do. I'm pretty happy with him. He'll be all right in the Derby.”
D. Wayne Lukas (trainer of Sporting Chance): “He has shied twice with Luis with the left-handed stick and I guess he doesn’t like it. He has never given any indication in the morning. He is probably the easiest horse in the barn to train. We needed those 40 points to get to the Derby and now we only have 12.
Luis Saez (rider of Sporting Chance): “I thought he was going to win. He was perfect (until) we came to the wire. When I hit him he (veered) out. He did it twice today. I don't know why he does that. He was perfect today up until then.”
Julien Leparoux (rider of sixth-place finisher Kanthaka): “We had a good trip. He traveled very nice for me. The winner came from the outside of me, and went by pretty early. I just could not keep up with him.”
Corey Lanerie (rider of seventh-place finisher Tiz Mischief): “I had a good trip. My horse didn’t show any speed. I was lucky enough to find a path on the rail, but when he got through, he just couldn’t get it done today.”