Good Magic, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champion who finished third his last time out, comes to Keeneland on Saturday as the 2-1 morning-line favorite for the 94th running of the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass Stakes coming out of the No. 11 post position.
The Chad Brown-trained colt will face off against a full field of 13 other other Kentucky Derby hopefuls.
“The post is slightly disappointing, but he’s training very well,” Brown said Tuesday after the draw.
For Keeneland oddsmaker Mike Battaglia, Good Magic was an easy choice as the favorite, despite his disappointing run in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes last time out on March 3 at Gulfstream Park. The third-place finish there was his only race since his Breeders’ Cup win at Del Mar on Nov. 4.
“Maybe not an easy pick to win, because he still has to show something, but I’ve got a lot of respect for Chad Brown,” Battaglia said. “I just don’t think he had him cranked up to go in his first race back. I think he’s going to show big improvement here.”
Good Magic, a son of Curlin out of Glinda the Good, was a $1 million purchase at the 2016 Keeneland September Yearling Sale and comes with the expectations to match the price tag.
“You don’t make very many seven-figure purchases, but he was very, very special,” said Mike Ryan, bloodstock adviser to owners Five Racing Thoroughbreds and Stonestreet Stables, who represented Good Magic’s connections at the draw Tuesday.
Dale Romans’ Free Drop Billy, who hit the board in his last two outings at the Gotham Stakes and the Holy Bull, is looking for his first win of 2018 and comes in as second choice at 5-1 out of post No. 10.
“He’s training great,” Romans said. “He came back and ran well first time out — topped all his numbers. In New York, he just got in trouble all the way around in a mile race. We still need a few points, though. We need to come over here and run big.”
The Blue Grass Stakes offers a total of 170 Kentucky Derby points with 100 going to the winner and assuring entrance into the first leg of the Triple Crown on May 5 at Churchill Downs. Even placing (40 points) in the Blue Grass will probably put a horse in the Derby’s 20-horse field. And the 20 and 10 points for third and fourth places, respectively, could bolster the résumé just enough. Last year, 40 points was enough to gain Derby entry.
Good Magic comes into the race with 34 Derby points, meaning he most likely needs at least a fourth-place finish in the Blue Grass to jump into the Derby field. Romans’ Free Drop Billy (24 points) and Tiz Mischief (6) need more.
“We’re going to do everything we can to win this race,” Romans said. “I’d love to win it, get points and go into the Derby with good momentum.”
Already sitting nicely positioned for the Derby, Quip (50 points) comes into the Blue Grass off a win in the Tampa Bay Derby his last time out on March 3 and is the co-third choice at 6-1 in post No. 5 along with Flameaway (30 points) in post No. 12. Flameaway finished second to Quip at Tampa and won the Sam F. Davis on Feb. 3.
Todd Pletcher, the trainer who won the Derby last year with Always Dreaming, brings in Marconi, a 15-1 shot and English jockey Ryan Moore in an attempt to a qualify a fourth horse from his stable for the Derby. Pletcher already has Florida Derby winner Audible, Louisiana Derby winner Noble Indy and Rebel Stakes winner Magnum Moon with enough points to earn a Derby spot.
“It’s a really good betting race,” Battaglia said. “Any time you have 14 horses, it’s a good betting race. You’ve got a solid favorite in Good Magic, but 2-1 is not a big, heavy favorite. ... I think overall, it’s a very good, quality field.
Toyota Blue Grass Stakes
What: $1 million Grade 2 stakes race for 3-year-olds on dirt, a major prep race for next month’s Kentucky Derby
Where: Keeneland Race Course
Post time: 6:23 p.m.
Distance: 1 1/8 miles
TV: NBC Sports Network