I know many were and still might be high on last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner. I’m not, really never was. (I singled Strike Power in my unsuccessful Pick 5 bet yesterday.) I actually expected him to run worse than his non-threatening third place Fountain of Youth finish.
Here’s why he’s not winning the Kentucky Derby.
He’s not Street Sense or even Nyquist – the only two Juvenile winners that went on to Kentucky Derby glory. The 2007 and 2016 Derby champs both had wins prior and post Juvenile. Good Magic happened to freak on a day when other’s didn’t run their best or had troubled trips. His one mark in the lifetime win column is more likely to remain singular for the time being.
I understand the care in which Juvenile/Derby winning trainers, Carl Nafzger and Doug O’Neill, took in slowly bringing along their charges from year two to three. The history of Juvenile winners failing to win or even get to the Kentucky Derby is long and illustrious. There are incredible names on that list like Arazi, Unbridled’s Song, and Uncle Mo to name a few of the 31 that couldn’t translate their phenomenal two-year-old form into a win on the first Saturday in May.
Nafzger was the first to figure out that the stresses of the Breeders’ Cup, so late into the two-year-old season, demanded something different from the typical three-race prep plan leading into the Kentucky Derby. Street Sense almost flawlessly followed the plan, winning the Tampa Bay Derby by a nose and losing a bizarrely run Blue Grass Stakes by the same margin.
O’Neill, as almost every Juvenile winner since Street Sense except Hansen, planned two prep races leading to Churchill Downs. Nyquist won both in easy fashion – the San Vicente Stakes and Florida Derby.
With great care has come very few post-Juvenile races run and won. In fact, following Street Sense, Juvenile winners have averaged just 1.5 prep races with a startling seven of those never making it to the Kentucky Derby starting gate.
All this means the window and the margin for error going from Juvenile winner to Derby winner is narrow. With his disappointing and tiring loss at Gulfstream Park, Good Magic will more likely have another disappointing prep race before landing in – with little chance of winning – or skipping the Kentucky Derby.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.
Photo of Good Magic courtesy of Melanie Martines