Gray Magician in Travers Stakes mix off Ellis Park Derby win

August 17, 2019 09:59am

The defections of Game Winner and Maximum Security from the prospective Travers Stakes (G1) field has led the connections of several top 3-year-olds to reconsider taking a shot in the Mid-Summer Derby. 

Count the owners of Gray Magician, winner of last weekend's Ellis Park Derby, among those. Eclipse Thoroughbreds President Aron Wellman said that although the Aug. 24 race would mark a quick turnaround, a run in the $1.25 million Travers hasn't been ruled out.

We have a very sophisticated ownership group, and we have our finger on the pulse of just about everything going on,” said Wellman, whose Eclipse Thoroughbreds own the colt in partnership with Gary Barber and Wachtel Stable. 

Obviously the Travers lost two of its primary contenders. So I wouldn't rule it out entirely. Before shutting the door on any opportunity, especially one with that money and prestige on the line, we never say never.”

Gray Magician had an eventful first half of the season for trainer Peter Miller with stakes efforts on both coasts, followed by a second in the UAE Derby (G2) and 19th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby. 

Following a brief freshening at WinStar, the son of Graydar has had more modest assignments this summer with the hope of getting back to the winner's circle. After finishing second to Mr. Money in the July 13 Indiana Derby (G3), Gray Magician returned to beat Grade 1 winner Knicks Go by a half-length in the Ellis Park Derby. 

It was very important for him to give him some confidence,” Wellman said of last Sunday's win. “We've managed him very ambitiously through the year. It's just he's run into some very good horses and had some very tough beats. But he's maintained his rock-hard constitution and that race was certainly no cakewalk.”

If Gray Magician doesn't take a shot in the Travers, he will likely be pointed to either the Sept. 2 Smarty Jones (G3) at Parx, which would serve as a prep for the Pennsylvania Derby (G1) later that month, or the $300,000 Super Derby (G3) at Louisiana Downs on Sept. 7. 

While Gray Magician has won just 2-of-11 starts, with four runner-up finishes, he has banked $738,710 in earnings by matching up against the crop's best. Whether the aggressive approach continues next weekend for seven figures at the Spa is to be determined. 

That was a legitimate race and he probably hasn't gotten enough credit for it,” Wellman said of the one-mile Ellis Park Derby. “On our figures he took another step forward, and it was probably at a distance that was a bit short. He's on a very progressive pattern and that leaves us some options. We'll see.” 

2019 Travers Stakes (G1)


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