Welcome back to the Twelve Days of Curlin Babies, where we celebrate the twelve most memorable races from Curlin’s progeny throughout 2018. Through all the hundreds of races in which they ran this year, these are the ones to which my mind keeps wandering back.
#8: Good Magic Reasserts His Class in the Blue Grass
Good Magic went from maiden to juvenile champion in one fell swoop last fall when he won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
When a horse breaks their maiden on such a big stage, it’s no surprise that people start to dream big. But, especially, when a horse so young shows so much talent, it’s hard to shake the fear that they won’t progress with the best of their class into the coming year.
Good Magic’s sophomore season did not begin as hoped. Though he went off the favourite in the Fountain of Youth Stakes on March 3, he could only churn on for third as Promises Fulfilled dominated up front and Strike Power chased him every step of the way. Questions bubbled up. Was it just a really good day for speed, as so many days in Hallandale Beach are? Did Good Magic just need a race? Or, was he not training on as well as his fans and backers hoped he would at three?
He got the chance to rebut his doubters April 7 at Keeneland, in the Blue Grass Stakes (G2).
Hung in the 10 gate in the field of 14, jockey Jose Ortiz urged Good Magic to get a prominent spot. He did, but couldn’t slip inside — he entered the first turn three wide, and floated out slightly at its mouth. He did settle in a good spot through the bend, just outside of California Night, in the third flight.
He began to inch closer approaching the far turn, encroaching outside of Kanthaka and Sporting Chance. As Arawak began to drop away, leaving Flameaway alone on the lead, Good Magic continued his advance. At the five-sixteenths, Good Magic had drawn on even terms outside of Flameaway.
Into the lane, Good Magic seized the lead alone. Flameaway, game as he was throughout the Triple Crown season, pursued doggedly but couldn’t answer him. Sporting Chance and Free Drop Billy renewed their contentious rivalry on the outside, but neither could mount enough of a challenge.
The two-year-old champion was gone. He drove to the wire a length and a half clear of Flameaway. He was back on top, back in the winners’ circle, and on track just in time to face the rigors of the Triple Crown.
Though he never toppled Justify, Good Magic tried. He persistently chased the eventual Triple Crown winner home in the Kentucky Derby, holding second over rail-skimming Audible. Two weeks later, in the sloppy, foggy Preakness, he did the dirty work of ensuring that Justify had some pace pressure. Used up in that foolish yet necessary errand, he crossed the wire in fourth — but only a length behind the winner, closer than he came in Louisville.
Instead of pressing on to the Belmont, trainer Chad Brown and owners eFive Racing Thoroughbreds and Stonestreet Stables gave him a breather until the Haskell (G1) on July 29. The move paid off; Good Magic returned rested and ready to win in dominant fashion.
Unfortunately, that was the last time we would ever see Good Magic’s racetrack best. He finished a disappointing ninth as the favourite in the Travers (G1), went to the farm for a spell, and was retired to begin stud duties at Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm in 2019. Though it would have been nice to see what he could do as he aged — given that he is by Curlin out of a Ghostzapper mare! — what he did at Keeneland, Churchill, Pimlico, and Monmouth let us say with confidence that his Breeders’ Cup win at two was no one-off triumph.