HRN Original Blog:
Dueling Down The Stretch

Why Good Magic looks like a vulnerable 2018 Travers favorite

The retirement of Triple Crown winner Justify, combined with Good Magic’s Grade 1 Haskell Invitational win the following weekend, marked a passing of the torch in the 3-year-old division. It also handed clear 2018 Travers Stakes favoritism to the 2-year-old Eclipse Award winner.

But it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see Good Magic fall victim at Saratoga, the Graveyard of Champions, in the Aug. 25 Mid-Summer Derby.

While the son of Curlin has proven dominant in races run between 8 1/2 and 9 furlongs, he lacks a victory at longer than 1 1/8 miles. You can point to his runner-up in the Kentucky Derby as a sign Good Magic can handle the distance. However, he was turned away by Justify and barely held off the closing rush of Florida Derby winner Audible for the place.

The performance at Churchill Downs didn’t provide proof Good Magic relishes the distance — at least not in the way some other Travers contenders will. Among those proven, or have shown much more affinity for longer distances, are Hofburg, Gronkowski and Wonder Gadot in particular.

The first two have yet to win going 10 furlongs but were closing strongly in the Belmont Stakes despite a less than ideal pace setup. 

Gronkowski gave the better accounting of himself, making a bold move from last after breaking poorly in his U.S. (and dirt) debut. He even seemed primed to threaten Justify for a moment. It was an admirable performance going 12 furlongs considering Gronkowski’s previous longest race ran at a mile.

Gronkowski closed to within 1 3/4 lengths of Justify in the Belmont. Hofburg, who was making just his fifth start in the race, was 3 1/2 lengths back at the wire. The regally bred son of Tapit returned July 27 to score a win over the Saratoga track when he won the Curlin Stakes by five lengths over an out-classed field.

I consider Gronkowski the main male threat to Good Magic. But the filly, Wonder Gadot, could steal the show. 

Before blinkers were added, Wonder Gadot suffered six straight losses. All were solid performances, but she lacked the all-important final kick down the stretch, tending to hang by her competition. The equipment seemingly fixed all of that as she won her last two starts, the opening legs of the Canadian Triple Crown.

One of those victories came at 10 furlongs — a commanding Queen’s Plate score in a large field — and it was enough to convince me she will be tough to handle in the Travers.

Wonder Gadot’s style puts her closer to the front than either of the other aforementioned upset threats. The daughter of Medaglia d’Oro could wind up controlling the pace in a race won the last two years in wire-to-wire fashion.

Given that, I think Wonder Gadot — not Good Magic — has the best shot to win the Travers Stakes.


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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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