By: James Millar
HOW HE GOT HERE
Mage has shown immense talent in just three lifetime starts and is looking to continue his ascent among his peers under the twin spires in Louisville. Left alone on the tote board, even after some encouraging works, Mage ran the field off their feet in his debut on the Pegasus undercard at Gulfstream. The son of Good Magic out of a Big Brown mare broke sharply from the gate in the 7 furlong affair and never looked back, running an impressive 89 Beyer and winning by 3 and 3/4 lengths. The colt was then pointed to stakes company in his second start as Derby Fever set in for the connections. Off as the co-second choice in the Fountain of Youth, Mage hit the gate on the break and was quickly shuffled back in the field, essentially neutralizing his natural quickness. He was hustled a bit into the first turn trying to establish position and ended up 5 wide outside of pace-setters Cyclone Mischief and Rocket Can. Moving 3 wide around the far turn seemed to take it out of Mage as he flattened in the lane to finish fourth behind likely Derby favorite, Forte, while running an 88 Beyer. His connections weren’t discouraged however, and he was sent off as the 9/2 second choice in the Florida Derby. There, his gate troubles continued, and he was off a few steps slow, once again putting him at an instant disadvantage. He was wide trying to find position in the first turn and eventually settled right behind Forte through the backstretch. Luis Saez said go around the 5/16 pole and Mage instantly responded, making a visually impressive sweeping move 5 wide around the far turn to take command over Cyclone Mischief by the 1/8th pole. He was eventually caught by Forte in the shadow of the wire but earned a strong 94 Beyer in just his third career start while showing he can overcome adversity. These two stakes starts earned Mage 50 points and a start in the 2023 Kentucky Derby.
HOW HE FITS HERE
Mage is an incredibly unique horse within this wide-open Derby field. While still lightly raced and what some may see as inexperienced, Mage has shown an incredible ability to run amidst adversity against the best of his peers, including a 2 year old champion in Forte. This adversity and experience will serve him well in Louisville. Mage’s highest Beyer figure of 94 is 7 points lower than the documented highest number of this crop, however, showing the speed and burst he did in the Florida Derby was something to behold. Many handicappers are saying, “If you like Forte, you have to like Mage, and he will be 5x the price.” It’s tough to disagree, although it’s important to note that while showing improvement on the Beyer scale, his TimeformUS figures have remained fast but also stagnant earning a 113 on debut, a 112 in the Fountain of Youth, and a 114 in the Florida Derby.
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CONNECTIONS AND PEDIGREE
Mage hopes to give his trainer Gustavo Delgado his first Kentucky Derby victory, or at the least, an on-the-board finish. Delgado previously had Majesto and Bodexpress in the Run for the Roses. Delgado hails from Venezuela and is primarily a trainer in south Florida. The $290,000 purchase was bred in Kentucky and is the first Kentucky Derby starter for his ownership group.
Mage is one of three sons of Good Magic who have qualified for the Kentucky Derby, along with Reincarnate and Blazing Sevens. Good Magic ran second in the 2018 Kentucky Derby to Justify and finished as the #2 First-Crop sire in 2022. He is also currently the #2 Second-Crop sire for 2023. Given his top-side pedigree, the distance isn’t expected to be a concern. Additionally, he is out of a Big Brown dam, Puca, who ran in the Kentucky Oaks back in 2015. Once again, the extra furlong of the Derby is not expected to be a concern for Mage.
Mage is a genuine wildcard in this year’s Run for the Roses. Given the dearth of speed in the race this year, a good draw and break could put Mage in a prime position entering the first turn. On the other hand, if he doesn’t figure out his gate issues, Mage could find himself way back early, in traffic, trying to close into what figures to be no better than an average pace. What is obvious though with Mage is his upside and talent. To go toe-to-toe with the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile winner and reigning 2 year old champion in just his third career start demonstrates the potential with this colt. Not to mention his arresting move towards the 1/4 pole in that race that shows an incredible ability to quicken when asked. While Mage figures to be a longshot in the Derby, your money could definitely be spent in worse places. He presents an exciting option given his upside and expectation of improvement.
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