#8: the fifth annual Twelve Days of Curlin Babies

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.

#12: Timeless Curls Marks Herself a Rising Star
#11: Secret Passage Comes Into His Own

#10: Legit Proves Aptly Named in His Gulfstream Unveiling
#9: Bishop’s Pond Proves She Is a Dirt Horse, After All

#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).

Good Magic forges clear of Flameaway to win the 2018 Blue Grass Stakes.

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.

America’s Best Racing: Big Race Showdown, Arkansas Derby and Lexington Stakes

This is week eleven of Big Race Showdown at America’s Best Racing: where I clash heads with six awesome handicappers (Emily GulliksonCandice HareDan TordjmanBrian ZipseEric Bialek, and Mark DiLorenzo) to see who can stay the hottest through Derby prep season.

After a solid week last week, I’m leading in terms of bankroll!  Let’s see if I can keep it up this week, or if another handicapper is going to catch me with a nice exacta or trifecta.  We tackle both the Arkansas Derby (G1) and the Lexington Stakes (G3), the final two Derby points preps!

Picks and Ponderings: 2018 Lexington Stakes Preview

Keeneland already had its 100-point prep last week, the Blue Grass (G2), but it also offers one final 20-8-4-2 point prep this Saturday for horses on the bubble who want to make one final bid to get in the field.  That race, the Lexington Stakes (G3), forms the focus of this piece.

Though no Illinois-breds have won this race, its winners have included a pair of graded stakes winners at Arlington: 1991 winner Hansel had won the Arlington-Washington Futurity (G2) the year before, and 2006 winner Showing Up showed up to Arlington and annexed the Secretariat Stakes (G1).  Back in its Calumet Purse days, it also produced a graded stakes winner at Hawthorne: Sensitive Prince went on to win the 1978 Hawthorne Derby (G3).

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of the Lexington Stakes, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

America’s Best Racing: Big Race Showdown, Wood Memorial, Blue Grass Stakes, and Santa Anita Derby

This is week ten of Big Race Showdown at America’s Best Racing: where I clash heads with six awesome handicappers (Emily GulliksonCandice HareDan TordjmanBrian ZipseEric Bialek, and Mark DiLorenzo) to see who can stay the hottest through Derby prep season.

We tackle all three Kentucky Derby preps on Saturday: the Blue Grass (G2) at Keeneland, the Wood (G1) at Aqueduct, and the Santa Anita Derby (G1) at Santa Anita.  Since the first half of this year’s Big Race Showdown is the Triple Crown trail, it’s a great week to make some moves…I’m holding my own so far, so let’s hope I can keep it going this week!

Picks and Ponderings: 2018 Beaumont Stakes Preview

Though the three-year-old trails visit AqueductKeeneland, and Santa Anitaon Saturday, make sure to save some energy for Sunday’s action, as well.  The Grade 3 Beaumont Stakes is the second of two Oaks preps to be run opening weekend at Keeneland.  Unlike Saturday’s Ashland, and other recent preps, it does not offer enough points to get its winner into the big race — but for horses on the bubble, the 10-4-2-1 points allocated to the top four finishers would theoretically be enough to get a horse on the bubble into the gate.  “Theoretically” is the key word, however, as this year’s field of nine in the Beaumont lacks Oaks prospects, but features a mix of sprinters and horses who took a long winter layoff and make their seasonal bow here.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of Sunday’s Beaumont Stakes, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Picks and Ponderings: 2017 Raven Run Stakes Preview

This Saturday’s featured race at Keeneland is the Grade 2 Raven Run Stakes. The race has been run since 1999, and has always been a seven-furlong sprint for three-year-old fillies over the Keeneland main track. It earned Grade 3 status in 2002, and gained its current Grade 2 designation in 2006. The race takes its name from Raven Run, a nature sanctuary about half an hour’s drive from Keeneland. To date, the most accomplished winner of the Raven Run has been Informed Decision (2008). This race was the last of her three-year-old career, but she returned the next year to win six of her seven starts, including the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (G1), and capture the 2009 Eclipse Award for Champion Female Sprinter. Of local interest, Informed Decision also won the Chicago Handicap (G3) in both 2009 and 2010.  The 2015 winner, Ingrid Mason trainee Sarah Sis, also won the Chicago Handicap the following year.

This year’s edition of the Raven Run offers a $250,000 purse once again, and eleven sophomore fillies passed the entry box. The Raven Run is the second to last chance for three-year-old filly sprinters to compete in graded company against their own age group. The only such race remaining is the La Brea Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita, typically run late in December.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of the Raven Run Stakes, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Picks and Ponderings: 2017 Woodford Stakes Preview and Weekend Keeneland Stakes Selections

Opening weekend at Keeneland, with its stakes-laden Fall Stars cards, takes place this weekend.

We will have picks for all nine graded races at Keeneland Friday through Sunday, and detailed analysis of the Woodford Stakes (G2).  The Woodford is as classy a turf sprint as you’ll see in the United States outside the Breeders’ Cup.  Particularly since the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint will be a more traditional turf dash and not a gallop down the Santa Anita hill, it should be a key prep.

Last year’s edition of the Woodford featured an exacta of Chicago mainstays: 2015 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner MONGOLIAN SATURDAY held off the late run of old warrior HOGY.  Both of them are part of this year’s nine-horse field.  Also among the Chicago locals in this year’s edition is the 2014 Woodford runner-up MONGOL BULL, still with owner/trainer Bradlee Rainwater, and trying to do three years ago one better.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of the Woodford Stakes, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

 

finally, a three-year-old standout!

In an event atypical of this spring’s racing season, a three-year-old finally brought some clarity.  I have complete confidence in putting a three-year-old at the top of my list — for the first time since Classic Empire bombed in the Holy Bull (G2).

Still, the top slot does not return to last year’s champion two-year-old male.  His Arkansas Derby (G1) was solid, a testament to Mark Casse’s training acumen and a suggestion that Classic Empire can once again find top-flight form.  Despite the roadblocks between the Holy Bull and the Arkansas Derby, he has once again marked himself a contender.  But, a clear standout?  That’s going too far after his issues, after his getting only two Derby preps spaced so far apart.  No, Classic Empire is not the source of my clarity.

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Picks and Ponderings: 2017 Blue Grass Stakes and Ashland Stakes Preview

The three-year-old prep season heats up even more this weekend, with the Blue Grass (G2) and the Ashland (G1) at Keeneland!

The Blue Grass drew a field of just seven, but four of those seven are top names on many Kentucky Derby lists: undefeated McCraken, classy Practical Joke, pricey Tapwrit, and New York invader J Boys Echo.  The Ashland, which drew eight, will be Daddys Lil Darling’s return to the main track, and Grade 1 winner Pretty City Dancer’s last shot to guarantee a gate in the Oaks.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of Saturday’s Derby and Oaks prep action at Keeneland, and let me know what you think in the comments!

Picks and Ponderings: 2016 Fayette Stakes Preview

This weekend, Blinkers Off will be breaking its Keeneland maiden.  So, it was not hard to decide what race to preview over at Picks and Ponderings: Saturday’s feature, the Grade II Fayette!

The nine-furlong Fayette Stakes drew an intriguing field of eight: a few older horses trying to find their mojo again, some more lightly-raced horses trying to find their place in the handicap division, and one very classy turf horse trying to prove that his excellent recent form on the grass can translate to the main track as well.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of the Fayette Stakes, and let me know what you think in the comments!

Picks and Ponderings: Fall Stars Sunday

Keeneland’s opening weekend concludes Sunday with a card that features the Spinster Stakes (GI) and the Bourbon Stakes (GIII).  I have analysis of both over at Picks and Ponderings.

Both races are Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In events.  The Spinster drew a small but solid field to contend for a Distaff spot.  The Bourbon drew an overflow field of two-year-olds to vie for a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, and should be an excellent betting race.

Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of Keeneland’s Sunday graded stakes races, and let me know in the comments what you think!