With just one win in eight career starts, slow speed figs, and coming off a very disappointing loss overseas in the UAE Derby, Gray Magician is likely to be the biggest American longshot in the Kentucky Derby. On paper, he’s an easy one to fade in a group that appears top-heavy; with plenty of quality opposition that have a legitimate chance to become the division’s top three year old in Louisville.
As bettors, we cannot automatically jettison these types. If you’re a player who routinely dismisses the longest shots on the board, without even pretending to mow through their PP’s, you’re doing yourself a horrendous disservice. To be a most effective bettor, one should not have a stringent selection profile. I’ve often found myself gravitating to third or fourth choices, in the 4:1-8:1 range, because they’re somewhat of a price, yet still likely enough for me to feel good about an opportunity to cash. This way of thought is wrong. Handicapping is an art that cannot be forced. You’ve got to be creative, inventive, sometimes even zany. You have to be willing to bet on a 50:1 shot and accept the diminished chance to win. Handicappers should also be open to the idea of singling an unbeatable favorite, as your long-term equity will be severely damaged if you’re always trying to take a stand. Using many more horses to get through a leg in a multi-race bet than the average ticket accomplishes is a R.O.I. killer. This is why we take the time to thoroughly look over horses like Gray Magician, who can make for a life changing score.
That being said, Gray Magician is not a horse we can endorse in the Derby, even underneath at gigantic odds. While he improved last out in the UAE Derby, after getting whooped by Alwayssmining in an ungraded stake at Laurel, it was a decidedly subpar Derby prep overall where Gray Magician hung badly in the stretch going nine and a half furlongs. Bred to be excel at a mile, a distance he was kept at before his Dubai trip, a mile and a quarter may be pushing it. Gray Magician is not nearly talented to overcome this potential shortcoming. He’s shown some potential, but the odds may be against him ever morphing into a graded stakes winner, even with supertrainer Peter Miller bringing him along. Ift the light bulb did indeed switch on last out at Meydan as a one-run closer when previously more of a one-paced speed type, he was bested by another Derby longshot in Plus Que Parfait, and we have no reason to believe the tables will turn at Churchill.
The only foreseeable option for Gray Magician in the Derby is to completely drop out of the early running and attempt to make a bid to pick up some minor rewards late in the stretch. Until he shows capable to improve, Gray Magician is a lackluster, unneeded attraction to this year’s run for the roses.
Here are our trip notes for Gray Magician:
8th career start: March 30th, Meydan (Dubai), Group 2 UAE Derby, one mile and three sixteenths
Gray Magician is #8
Broke very sharp, rated back in among horses in midpack, shuffled back some onto backstretch, outside 5/6 wide throughout far turn, came on rounding into the stretch with all the momentum, became the horse to beat, did not want to go by Manguzi to his inside, eventually by him very late but no real match for the winner to the inside who Gray Magician was never going to go by. Gray Magician really hung here in the stretch, raising some distance concerns in what was the weakest final Derby prep of them all.
7th career start: February 16th, Laurel, Miracle Wood stakes, one mile
Rated off the loose on the lead favorite/eventual winner Alwaysmining, outside in 2nd tier, unable to challenge leader, one-paced in stretch, barely held off the oncoming Tybalt in stretch duel for 2nd. Even getting out of California and back to one turn, this was another similar effort that we’d become accustomed to from Gray Magician.
Trip notes of Gray Magician’s six other career starts can be found in the comments.