HRN Original Blog:
Dueling Down The Stretch

Why I'm not feelin' Good Magic for Kentucky Derby 2018

Why I'm not feelin' Good Magic for Kentucky Derby 2018
Photo: Nedim Slijepcevic/HRN

His numbers and times, both final and splits, just don’t stack up with the best of this crop. And it seems the only way for him to have a shot coming into the 2018 Kentucky Derby is to make a massive jump forward. 

So, no, I'm not feeling Good Magic as a win contender with fewer than 10 days until the race.

Taking to the often-tricky Churchill Downs surface can aid in progress, which is why trainer Chad Brown probably felt it prudent to ship his champion 2-year-old in early from nearby Keeneland, where last out Good Magic won the Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes. And since arriving, Brown has said what most trainers will tell you: that the horse is doing great, even going so far as to say that he’s looking better than any horse he's trainer.

For a moment, I did think that Good Magic could make the needed leap forward. He was training well at Keeneland, and his gallops over a muddy and good Churchill Downs surface appeared solid. He looked so good in fact, that I gave his work at Keeneland a B-plus rating and felt similarly after watching the Curlin colt gallop Wednesday. But that changed Thursday when the track was finally rated fast again.

As I watched Good Magic gallop, what struck me the most was the choppiness of his stride in the front. He did not seem to be extending with the same smoothness as he had just a day prior. He also jumped back to his left lead during his gallop down the stretch. 

The change could be due to the track drying out. Wednesday, the moisture was still visible, but by Thursday the track looked completely dry. The change didn’t seem to affect the other Derby contenders seen on track, as Audible, Vino Rosso and Free Drop Billy looked just as good, if not better than they have in their previous gallop over the track.

Despite the difference in the fluidity of his stride Wednesday vs Thursday, there are some that continue to “like what they see.” I can understand how they may have after Wednesday’s gallop, but I have a hard time believing anyone was truly impressed with what they saw Thursday.

Such is the scrutiny of live-streamed daily training.

As the hype train on this horse continues picking up steam -- he's the second choice to Justify in Las Vegas odds -- I can no longer fathom why. Sure, a gallop is not the same as a work. But if a horse isn't comfortable at a reduced speed, chances are he won't handle it going faster.

Ideally, the weather stays nice in Louisville over the next few days. With Good Magic set to breeze Saturday, we'll learn more from that spin around the Churchill Downs oval.

Until then, I'm really not feeling Good Magic. 


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Meet Laura Pugh

Laura Pugh got her first taste of Thoroughbred racing when she watched War Emblem take the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 2002. At that point, she fell in love with the sport, reading every piece of news and information she could get her fingertips on.

Laura has a long history with horses in general, taking her first ride on her fifth birthday, with her first official riding lesson when she was eight years old. Both years she attended college, she joined her school’s equestrian team, first at Virginia Intermont College and then again at Delaware State University. Unfortunately, after back and shoulder injuries, she had to hang up her saddle. 

In 2010, Laura began writing for Horse Racing Nation and has also contributed to Lady and the Track, TwinSpires and USRacing. She currently works at a local newspaper as a community reporter.

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