Mage Pulls Off Magical Derby Score

Mage, with Javier Castellano up, 8, crosses the finish line to win the Kentucky Derby.

Mage Pulls Off Magical Derby Score

There were so many different angles to this year’s Kentucky Derby (G1) that it makes perfect sense that a 15-1 shot held on to win the 1 1/4-mile test Saturday in front of 150,000-plus at Churchill Downs.

Mage is trained by Gustavo Delgato. The Venezuelan horseman evoked memories of 1971 Kentucky Derby winner Canonero II. Adding to the pride of Venezuela is the horse was ridden for the first time by Javier Castellano.

The story of Derby 149 was more than just the South American angle, it was about the number of horses that didn’t run in the Derby. Leading up to the Run for the Roses, the New Mexico-based Wild on Ice was euthanized after suffering an injury during a workout. Then came the scratches.

All three also-eligibles for the Derby made their way into the starting gate with the defections of Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner Practical Move, due to a spiking temperature; Lord Miles due to trainer Saffie Joseph Jr.’s horses being removed from contention by the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority; Skinner, third in the Santa Anita Derb due to fever, and then Derby morning, Forte, the favorite, was scratched by the state vets due to a foot bruise.

Forte’s scratch was telling in the Derby winner. Twice in South Florida, Forte finished ahead of Mage in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) and Florida Derby (G1). But Mage was on the move and won the Derby in just his fourth career start, mirroring that of Triple Crown winner Justify in 2018.

Mage is a son of Good Magic, the champion 2-year-old of 2016 and runner-up behind Justify in the Kentucky Derby. Mage is out of the mare Puca, a daughter of 2008 Derby winner Big Brown. Bred in Kentucky by Grandview Equine, he was a $290,000 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale 2-year-old in May of last year.

Prior to Mage’s score, only Justify and Big Brown had won the Derby off of three starts.

He races for a partnership group that boasts hundreds of owners, each able to purchase fractional ownership. That’s one way to grow the sport.

There didn’t figure to be a stout pace in this year’s Derby, so of course, there was. Verifying, Kingsbarns, and Reincarnate zipped through early fractions of :22.35, :45.73, and 1:10.11, which was too hot to handle. Down the backstretch Mage was 15th of the 18 runners. He worked his way through traffic under veteran Javier Castellano, collared Two Phil’s in the stretch, and outdueled him to the wire in 2:01.57.

The win was the first in 16 tries for Castellano.

“Sometimes you feel embarrassed a little bit when you been trying so many times, and you don’t see the results,” Castellano said after the race. “And sometimes you go down a little bit. But I didn’t give up. I always tried to be positive and tried to find the right horse to participate in one of the biggest racing in the world.

“It’s amazing when somebody believes in you, and they trust you, and they put it in your hand and yourself. I think that’s one thing I have always been grateful for, all the Delgado team and Mr. Herzberg (part of the OGMA Investments ownership group), he gave me the opportunity to ride the horse.”

After the race, an emotional Ramiro Restrepo spoke with the media. He is one of the four major owners of Mage.

“The emotions are just through the roof, obviously,” he said. “The amount of friends that we all have. The ownership group is four different groups from four different backgrounds, all different age ranges, nationalities. I mean, it’s one heck of a melting pot that came together for this horse, so. The amount of celebration that’s going to go on, I can’t even describe it going forward.

“But it’s just Gustavo [Delgado] and I have been trying to raise our profiles. Gustavo, Gustavo Sr. as a trainer has had so much success in South America, and he has come here and has always had a small boutique stable and has always wanted to increase his presence to have more quality horses with a lot more owners.

“This is a game that there’s so many successful people that are buying in bulk at the highest end of the sport. And I feel like they have unlimited bullets, and I have a musket.”

Mage, as a musket, fired his best shot on the biggest stage in the sport.

Mage returned $32.42, $14.58, and $9.08. Two Phil’s returned $10.44 and $6.52 and finished a half-length in front of favored Angel of Empire, who paid $4.70 to show.

It was another three lengths back to Disarm, who was followed in order by Hit Show, Derma Sotogake, Tapit Trice, Raise Cain, Rocket Can, Confidence Game, Sun Thunder, Mandarin Hero, Reincarnate, Kingsbarns, King Russell, Verifying, Jace’s Road, and Cyclone Mischief.

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