Mage Derby Victory Brings Delgado Full Circle

The wild and wacky Kentucky Derby 149 finally is in the books, and as it turned out it wasn’t wild and wacky as much as it was written in the stars. In the end, even to the cynics who didn’t believe in a horse with only three lifetime starts, it all made perfect sense. ~ Steve Haskin

Mage Derby Victory Brings Delgado Full Circle

By Steve Haskin

Photo by Michael Clevenger and Christopher Granger/Courier Journal

It was 1971. The entire country of Venezuela was ablaze with the fire lit by a racehorse named Canonero II. The crooked-legged colt with obscure breeding who was purchased as a yearling in Kentucky for a paltry $1,200 before being sent to Venezuela had become all the rage of the racing world after his shocking victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness and the amazing journey that brought him back to the United States. Sharing in the glory was a young trainer named Juan Arias, who rose from the slums of Caracas to shine on racing’s biggest stage. Everything about his training of Canonero was unconventional, including going into the colt’s stall each morning and asking him if he felt like training that day. Between Arias and his ugly duckling colt they were the laughing stock of Churchill Downs, until they became one of the sport’s greatest and most popular heroes, paving the way for racing’s golden decade of the ‘70s.

In Venezuela, Canonero’s jockey Gustavo Avila was carried through the streets of Caracas. Songs written about Canonero were played constantly on the radio. The building of a statue of the horse at La Rinconada Race Course was put in motion. People began naming their babies Canonero Segundo (Canonero the second). There was even a documentary made about the horse during the Triple Crown. And Juan Arias, despite not speaking English, became racing’s newest rock star. After arriving in New York for the Belmont Stakes Canonero was actually interviewed by Joe Garagiola of the “Today” show, who asked the horse questions and then held the microphone up to his face. It was a wild and crazy time for the Sport of Kings, which was now ruled by the ultimate pauper who had turned into a prince.

One 13-year-old youngster who, like everyone in Venezuela, was caught up in all the Canonero pandemonium was Gustavo Delgado, who hoped that one day he could experience such glory and accolades and stand atop the racing world with an equine hero like Canonero, who was known as the “Caracas Cannonball,” with the cries of “Viva Canonero!” resounding throughout the racing world.

Delgado eventually rose to the top of his profession in Venezuela and the Caribbean, winning numerous major races and the equivalent of three Triple Crowns. But the money was poor, as was the lifestyle in Venezuela, and with the help of his mentor and boyhood idol, he decided to set his goals much higher. That mentor was none other than Juan Arias, who had taken the young trainer under his wing. Arias had retired from training years earlier, but had fallen on hard times financially in the economy-plagued country and missed his days on the racetrack, so he returned just to be around the horses again and some of the old familiar faces. He took a liking to Delgado and actually began working for him, while teaching him at the same time. Even many years later, the memories of Canonero II and those amazing glory days still remained, not only with Arias, but Delgado, who still believed he could experience those feelings of euphoria and rise to racing’s greatest heights. But there was only one place to attain such worldwide fame and glory and that was the United States and a return to where it all began for Juan Arias — Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.

One day, Delgado told his son and assistant, Gustavo Jr., “We should go to the United States and try to win one of those.” So, with Arias’ blessing and all he had learned from the great trainer, Delgado and his family headed for the United States, where he started a small stable in 2014, winning 45 races for earnings of just over $800,000.

But it didn’t take him long to reach his destination; the place where dreams come true. In 2016 he made it to Churchill Downs after Majesto finished second in the Florida Derby only to be beaten badly in the Kentucky Derby at odds of 21-1. Then in 2019 he returned with Bodexpress, who also finished second in the Florida Derby. But he also finished far back in the Derby at odds of 71-1. Despite the two bad showings Gustavo and Gustavo Jr. were confident in their ability to get a horse to the Kentucky Derby and win. All they needed was the right horse on the right day, and with the Derby gods smiling down on them.

To interject a little personal aspect to the story, I first became aware of Delgado in January, 2020 during the Covid outbreak. Prominent owner Rick Porter, who I had known for years, called and asked me to find him a potential Derby horse who he could purchase outright. It was obvious the horse couldn’t be owned or trained by a major player. I had just watched an Uncle Mo colt named Caracaro break his maiden at Gulfstream by six lengths in 1:35 flat for the mile and thought he had everything one looked for in a Derby horse. He was trained by Gustavo Delgado and owned by Global Thoroughbred and Top Racing, so a sale for all of the horse looked possible. I told Rick about him and he eventually got back to me and said he didn’t like the colt’s Sheets figures.

Soon after, the colt got hurt and that was the last I heard of him until he showed up six months later in the Peter Pan Stakes, getting beat a neck by Country Grammer and finishing ahead of Mystic Guide, both eventual Dubai World Cup winners. I knew then that this was a top-class colt and only an exceptional trainer could have gotten him to run such a huge race off such a long layoff. He then finished a strong second to the overwhelming Kentucky Derby favorite Tiz the Law in the Travers Stakes, run that year before the Derby. I felt off that performance he had a big shot to win the Derby, but he was injured again and retired. I was left with nothing but praise for Delgado for getting this horse so good off an injury and layoff.

The following year on August 20, 2021, Juan Arias died at the age of 83, a forlorn and forgotten hero who had helped create a legend. But he was never forgotten by Delgado, who could only mourn the loss of his friend and mentor and thank him for all he taught him.

In 2022, Gustavo Jr., who was trying to boost his career and increase his father’s presence in the hope of getting him more owners and better quality horses, and his friend Ramiro Restrepo, who was trying to make a name for himself in the bloodstock industry, joined forces and headed to Fasig-Tipton’s Timonium 2-year-old sale looking for potential runners. Gustavo Sr., now in his mid 60s, spoke little English and it was up to his son and Restrepo to get him the national exposure he deserved, and that was thorough top-class horses.

One horse who caught their eye was a chestnut son of Good Magic, who shared a barn in the Becky Thomas consignment with a highly regarded speedball by Bernardini who had torn up the track in his breeze. The Good Magic colt was also fast, breezing in :10 flat. but this was a smaller track than he was used to, starting on the turn and he had trouble changing his leads at the proper time and didn’t change them until late in the drill.

But Becky Thomas felt he was special. “He was always full of himself, just a feel-good horse,” she recalled. “He was very quick and I put one of my best riders on him. The main thing about him is that he was always a happy horse and always in his tub.”

The Bernardini colt, eventually named Hejazi, sold for a whopping $3.55 million and was sent to Bob Baffert. Then, over 200 hip numbers later, the Good Magic colt entered the ring. The auctioneer began by saying, “Hip number 592…lovely pedigree here; a colt in the ring worth a shot.” Delgado and Restrepo had a budget of $200,000. The bidding opened at $50,000 and quickly climbed to $100,000, then $150,000, and $200,000. That seemingly was it for them. The bidding stalled for a little while before picking up again at $225,000. Delgado was determined to get him and would not back down. He kept urging Restrepo to keep going. “Do not stop,” he insisted, as the bids kept climbing, but slowing down to $10,000 increments. When it hit $250,000 he had already passed his reserve and Delgado and Restrepo were going against live bids. Then $260,000, $270,000, $280,000. Still, Delgado kept pushing. “Keep going,” he said. Finally, they bid $290,000, which was followed by much welcomed silence. The hammer fell, with the auctioneer looking at them and concluding with a simple, “Thank you both.”

They had gone $90,000 over their budget and now they desperately needed to put together a partnership. They called Sam Herzberg of Sterling Racing. Herzberg had been to the Derby with a drop-dead gorgeous colt named Black Onyx, who injured himself the day before the race and was scratched Derby morning. Restrepo told him, “Sam, I just bought a horse at the Mid-Atlantic sale who I think is the best looking Good Magic in the country.” That was good enough for Herzberg, who bought in for 25 percent. Then they contacted Chase Chamberlin and Brian Doxtator of Commonwealth Sports with all their micro-shareholders and they also were in. With four partners they had their ownership.

They then sent the colt to Delgado Sr. who still trains old school and doesn’t rush his horses. After getting two months to recover from the sale he was sent to Delgado’s barn at the Kentucky Thoroughbred Training Center on Paris Pike outside Lexington, but wet weather and muddy tracks stalled the colt’s debut even further. At first, he was a bit stubborn and tough, as Becky Thomas had found out before realizing he was just playful and always wanting to go. But again once he started breezing he settled down. Finally the colt, now named Mage, meaning wizard as in magician, headed south to Gulfstream Park to Delgado’s main barn. It was assumed they would look for an easy spot for his debut, but Delgado said, “No, we’re going to run on Pegasus World Cup day,” where the competition would be much tougher. Mage responded by wiring his field by almost four lengths in a snappy 1:22 2/5 for the seven furlongs.

Knowing how good a horse this was, Delgado was confident enough in him to throw him right into the deep water against 2-year-old champion Forte in the Fountain of Youth Stakes. He needed to run in this race if he had any hopes of making it to the Kentucky Derby, even with only three lifetime starts and no starts at 2. Ironically, the first horse since 1915 to win the Derby with only three lifetime starts was Mage’s broodmare sire Big Brown. Perhaps the stars were already starting to align.

With Javier Castellano, a fellow Venezuelan, aboard for the first time in the Fountain of Youth, Mage had to go four-wide into the first turn, tracked the early pace while still wide down the backstretch, and moved three-wide on the tun to collar the leaders. Forte came charging up on his outside and quickly drew clear. But Mage kept running hard despite getting tired, finishing a solid fourth, beaten a little over two lengths for second. It was his performance that stood out in addition to the winner’s.

In the Florida Derby, Mage, with Luiz Saez aboard this time, broke slowly, as two horses came together in front of him forcing him to drop back to last in the 12-horse field. After winning on the front end and then stalking the pace, Mage now found himself at the rear of a big field with no one knowing what to expect from him. Amazingly, he put in a huge sustained run like a veteran closer and blew right by Forte on the far turn before opening a clear lead at the three-sixteenths pole. But that big early move took just enough out of him to let Forte find another gear and nail him in the closing strides. One thing Mage proved was that he could run big from anywhere on the track. And he no doubt would need that versatility in the Kentucky Derby, especially with so little racing experience.

And so it was time for Mage to leave his old Gulfstream home for the first time and take up residence in his new Kentucky home far away. But little did anyone know that he would be residing in perhaps the most hallowed structure at Churchill Downs next to the Twin Spires. And that is Barn 42, which housed the legendary Secretariat when he began the most iconic Triple Crown journey in history. On this 50th Anniversary of Big Red’s Derby triumph, once again, the stars seemed to be aligned.

When Derby Day arrived and it was time for the famed walkover, Mage put a scare into his handlers when he reared straight up in the air a couple of times. Becky Thomas, watching at home, could only smile and think, “Yep, that’s Mage, still the same feel-good, happy-go-lucky colt always looking for action.” But as usual he settled right down when it was time to get down to business.

In the Derby, Mage once again broke slowly and dropped far back, but this time would have to negotiate his way through, inside, or outside an 18-horse field with Javier Castellano back in the saddle. One horse he didn’t have to worry about was Forte, who was scratched the morning of the race with a slight foot bruise. Castellano was able to get Mage out in the clear before circling the entire field some seven-wide. He took command from a game Two Phil’s leaving the eighth pole and powered his way to a one-length victory. Delgado had his much coveted Derby victory and did it with a fellow Venezuelan, still searching for his first Derby victory.

No one was beaming with more pride than Gustavo Jr. “My dad grew up in a generation where everybody was talking about Canonero and he always felt as if he could accomplish that,” he said.

Castellano, who like Delgado is from Maracaibo Venezuela, was overwhelmed after the race. Once one of the great go-to riders in the country, he has won many major races, riding titles, and Eclipse Awards, but the Kentucky Derby has eluded him and he no longer gets the kind of mounts he used to. And that is why he is so grateful to the entire Mage team for giving him this opportunity.

“When I was in the jockey’s room before the race and NBC put ‘0‑for-15 Javier Castellano’ on the screen, in that moment, it give me so much inspiration,” he said. “And I kept thinking this is the year. I’m going to break the losing streak this year and I’m going to win the race. I felt a lot of confidence in myself. I have been describing the race to everyone and that is the way I have been dreaming it for many years.”

But it wasn’t only the horsemen, owners, and bettors who celebrated Mage’s 15-1 victory. It was also the many micro shareholders who now own a piece of a Kentucky Derby winner through their involvement with Commonwealth. One such person is Debra Krzastek, who watched the race at Monmouth Park.

“I can’t believe it,” she said. “This horse came available last December in one of their offerings and all I could think of when I saw the name Mage was my mom, whose name was Marge. It was her name minus one letter. Things like this don’t happen to me. I also heard that Mage was in the same barn as Secretariat 50 years ago, so I bought a Secretariat hoodie and wore it at Monmouth. I was so astonished when he won my mouth was wide open the rest of the night.”

But to many fans and horseplayers going into the race, having only three career starts still made Mage a big question mark with his lack of experience. However, no one knew about the seeds that Juan Arias had planted inside Gustavo Delgado, especially getting horses to do things most people believe they can’t do. How could a horse who traveled to the U.S. on a plane with chickens and ducks and then had to spend 72 hours in quarantine in Florida, losing over 70 pounds, van over 1,000 miles and almost 17 hours to Louisville, arriving one week before the Derby, then come from the back of a 20-horse field to win going away with ease? And how could he come back two weeks later, go head and head with the speedy Florida Derby winner Eastern Fleet though rapid factions and put him away before drawing clear at the finish, running the fastest Preakness in history?

Perhaps the same way a horse could win a fast sprint on the lead, then make arguably the most explosive move on the far turn seen in a long time, and finally come from 16th to win the Kentucky Derby.

Gustavo Delgado and Juan Arias at La Rinconada. Photo courtesy of Salomon Gill

An emotional Gustavo Delgado said after the race while looking up to the sky, “Juan (Arias) was with me at all times.” Salomon Gill, a Venezuelan-born movie producer living in Los Angeles, who produced a beautifully made documentary on Canonero and has been trying for years to make a full-length movie about the horse, said after the Derby, “As a Venezuelan I feel very proud  and joyful. In a way I see Juan’s hand in all this. It was just so sad that he died extremely poor and didn’t get to see Gustavo rejoice at Churchill Downs the way he did 52 years earlier.”

But Arias not only left an indelible legacy through Canonero, he left another through Gustavo Delgado. And this is Delgado’s time to shine and bask in the spotlight he once dreamed of as a youngster – standing in the winner’s circle of the Kentucky Derby with a very special horse who was defying history and showing the world that Venezuelan horsemen are among the best in the world.

The cries that accompanied Canonero wherever he went have been silent for over half a century…until now.

“Viva Mage!”


Racing historian, author, and award-winning retired journalist for the Daily Racing Form and The Blood-Horse, Steve Haskin was inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame’s Media Roll of Honor in 2016. Known for his racing knowledge and insightful prose, he has been an exclusive contributor to since 2020.


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227 Responses to “Mage Derby Victory Brings Delgado Full Circle”

  1. Roberta Greevey says:

    According to David Grening at DRF, it’s looking like Mage will face no Derby runners in the Preakness. That would be a new low (in more ways than one) in at least the past 50 years. The 1980 and 2008 runnings of the Preakness each had just two Derby entries, including the Derby winners.

  2. David D says:


    Is there any hope of salvaging the Triple Crown as a series by moving the Preakness to the first Saturday in June and the Belmont to either July 4 or the first Saturday in July? This is the only way most trainers today will enter their horses in all three races unless a Kentucky Derby winner is going for the Triple Crown.

    A points system for the three races, with extra money at stake, would encourage participation in all three races.

    The Preakness really has to reach for entries by giving automatic berths to winners of obscure races. In few recent years has the Preakness looked like a genuine Grade 1 race, let alone a classic. Of course this was all very different when I was growing up.



    • Matthew W says:

      There’s been two Triple Crown winners, in the past eight TC’s….

      • Matthew W says:

        The lasix ban should help…..lasix can wipe a horse out, this year there were two top contenders out with fevers, and one top contender with a foot bruise…actually Mage, National Treasure, Blazing Sevens, First Mission, Perform not too shabby….

      • Roberta Greevey says:

        Matthew, that’s an argument IN FAVOR of enticing connections to enter their horses in all three races. Do we want the TC to be easy to accomplish, or do we want the best 3yos in training to run in all three races?

        • Matthew W says:

          With 20 horses in the Derby…a race two weeks later and then a 12 furlong race, with several who skipped the middle leg. I’d say it’s harder, much harder to win the TC today— than when Secretariat beat 12 in the Derby…5 in the Preakness…4 in the Belmont….

          • Roberta Greevey says:

            Two TC winners within 4 years (’15 & ’18) should tell us it’s not as difficult as the 1979-2014 period.

            • Matthew W says:

              I whole-heartedly d I Sagres but that’s what makes Horse Racing the king of sports, there’s room for opinions, which are many..

              • Matthew W says:

                Secretariat beat the same horses three times…..Mage will be facing fresh horses in all three races…

    • Roberta Greevey says:

      David D, there was a point system for the Triple Crown ($1 mil bonus) in the ’80s and ’90s. I don’t recall why it was discontinued.

      I’d be in favor of adding a week between the three races (i.e., 3 weeks from KD to Preakness, 4 weeks from Preakness to Belmont).

      • Davids says:

        Roberta, in October, 1986 the tracks that host the Triple Crown races announced they will pay $5 million to a horse who sweeps the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes. A year later Chrysler sponsored the $5 million Triple Crown Bonus… No one ever won the total bonus. There were variable bonuses though for winning parts of the Triple Crown races. Chrysler ended the sponsorship in 1996. Visa took over the $5 million sponsorship in 1997 and ended it in 2005. From there is too much to right about it. Ha ha

        • Davids says:

          Write about not right about. Just got out of bed. Lol, no coffee yet.

        • Roberta Greevey says:

          Yes, the $1 mil bonus to which I referred was for the 3-race horse with the most points (if no TC winner). Well, at least they tried!

        • Matthew W says:

          That’s because of the two Derby winners Gato Del Sol and Spend a Buck not running in the Preakness—-Horse Racing “needs” the Derby winner in the Preakness. …..

    • arlingtonfan says:

      Sometimes the winner comes from one of those obscure races. Golden Gate Fields’ El Camino Real Derby is not on most people’s radar, yet its 2021 winner, Rombauer, took the Preakness that year.

  3. Matthew W says:

    Speaking of beautiful red horses, is there a better turf stayer in the US–than Red Knight? Peaking, at age nine, brings back memories of John Henry….

  4. Barbara Rust says:

    What a great story about Mage. I was so happy for that horse and the jockey. Reading your story makes it even better. It was a beautiful race. I haven’t seen whether or not he going on to the Preakness, it will be so interesting to watch. Thank you for providing the information, I found it fitting that he was in the same stable as Secretariat.

  5. Lynda King says:

    Happy Mother’s Day to Joan and Mandy and all you Moms out there!

  6. Terri Z says:

    HISA will be doing a thorough independent investigation of recent horse deaths at Churchill Downs. This information is from May 12th, The Blood Horse Magazine.

  7. Terri Z says:

    Thanks again Steve for such an inspiring and uplifting story about Mage and his connections to Canonero II and to Venezuela and to South America. A higher power was at work in this year’s Kentucky Derby. Why else would Mage be the only runner to be in Secretariat’s barn (#42) for the Derby? What a win for small breeders, a trainer with a boutique barn, for the great tradition of old school Venezuelan trainers, jockeys, and horsemen. It’s a win for a small 15 hand horse, when much larger thoroughbreds are popular in the breeding shed. The late Marylou Whitney had to give away breeding seasons to her small stallion Birdstone in spite of his being a winner in the Belmont; I would look forward to seeing her and her birdies during their winter visit to Gulfstream; I am still a fan of her horses.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Thanks Terri. Only the Kentucky Derby produces stories such as these.

      • Terri Z says:

        You are most welcome. It is wonderful stories like this that keeps horse racing alive. With all of it’s faults and flaws, hopefully it will survive. It’s survival depends on leadership of it’s angels who were the Queens of Horseracing: Penny Chenery, Queen Elizabeth II, and Marylou Whitney. Barbara Banke is the current Queen and she has exerted a positive influence on the Sport of Kings and Queens. Isn’t it interesting that the Coronation of King Charles III occurred on the First Saturday of May. Queen Elizabeth II visited Kentucky several times and visited our Equine Royalty.

        • Jiffy says:

          Barbara Banke deserves enormous credit for refusing ever to breed Rachel Alexandra after she almost died foaling. Ms. Banke sacrificed millions of dollars to protect the health and safety of her horse. She definitely did not act out of greed and love of money.

          I would also include Allaire du Pont on the list of Queens of Horseracing. She too loved her horses and she did a lot of work to promote thoroughbred welfare and aftercare. When she was in the winner’s circle with Kelso every few weeks, she always left spectators with a wonderful impression of the sport and its people.

  8. Nelson Maan says:

    Something you will read in a future Frankie Dettori autobiography is that he could have had the mount of Mage but he decided to go for the 2000 Guineas with Chaldean.

    Seems like the gods of Fortune are accompanying him where ever he goes in his farewell year.

    BTW the legendary Jockey is named to ride Henry Q in the Peter Pan Stakes this Saturday… we will likely see another masterful ride with a horse who needs to lead from the get-go to win….curious to see how he handles the super fast Bishops Bay to his right.

    Slip Mahoney is cross entered in the Peter Pan (at 4/1 ML) and in the 1 Mile-70Yard-Long Branch S. at Monmouth af 5/2 ML. Joel Rosario is called to ride him at Belmont .

    Arcangelo (Arrogate-Modeling by Tapit) is an intriguing one after winning at Gulfstream in an spectacular 1:34 2/5 for the mile. He is the only one I can see running in the Belmont Stakes as the others are mainly speed horses or milers unless Go Soldier Go takes advantage of his FOUR one and 3/16-mile races at Dubai and wins convincingly with Flavian Prat up…

    But no serious Belmont Stakes horse seems to be emerging from the historic race this year…

    • Davids says:

      The connections of Go Soldier Go must have high expectations for the Belmont Stakes it will be interesting to see how he performs here. Hopefully, Frankie will be riding at ParisLongchamp on Sunday.

    • Davids says:

      Good pick with Arcangelo in the Peter Pan Stakes, Nelson, and you’re right that: “[Arcangelo] is the only [you] can see running the Belmont Stakes”. By the way, have you decided on a colt for the Epsom Derby yet? I’m warming to Arrest after his win the Chester Vale with Frankie Dettori aboard. Certainly would bring the house down should Frankie manages to pull it off.

      • Nelson Maan says:

        Hi Davids….I am waiting for the May 18 Dante Stakes to have a better idea of Godolphin’s chances in the Epsom Derby.

        Like Arrest, Military Order is a son of Frankel who will cherish the distance. The Godolphin colt is also half brother to Adayar … it would be nice to see another son of Anna Salai (Dubawi) winning the Epsom Derby .. and Charlie Appleby trying to end O’Brien’s rule on the race.

        I am not sure the other Godolphin prospect (Flying Honours) will be ready for the big race though… but we shall see how the Dante comes up this Thursday…

        • Davids says:

          Good luck in the Dante, Nelson. I like George Strawbridge’s colt, Epictetus, trained by the Gosdens with Frankie piloting. Rain expected on Tuesday at York but it’s fine on Wednesday and Thursday.

          • Nelson Maan says:

            He is a good one… they said he will run the Epsom or go to Chantilly for the Prix du Jockey Club depending of his performance in the Dante.

      • Nelson Maan says:

        CORRECTION: Military Order won the Fitzdares Lingfield Derby Trial Stakes yesterday and his next race will be the Epsom Derby.

        Flying Honours is the one most likely running in the Dante…

  9. John Goggin says:

    All I can say is that Lynda – you are right….just another pass for a someone with dirt on their hand not name Baffert.

  10. Davids says:

    This Sunday at ParisLongchamp the Poule d’Essai des Poulains (French 2,000 Guineas); Poule d’Essai des Pouliches (French 1,000 Guineas) will be run.

    For the colts, American Flag, Isaac Shelby, and Paddington seem to be the top chances. Allez, Paddington!!

    In the Pouliches, Blue Rose Cen. Lindy, and Never Ending Story are the favored fillies. Allez, Lindy!!

    Dimanche, sera ensoleillé à Paris exquis.

    Escape to Paris for a few hours…

    • Davids says:

      Paddington staying home for the May 27 Irish 2,000 Guineas.

      • Nelson Maan says:

        The son of Siyouni could be facing Auguste Rodin, Cairo, and Chaldean at the Curragh.

        Paddington and Chaldean are brilliant milers and will be delivering a great show for sure. The experience at the Curragh may help Paddington.. but I am still feel Chaldean is well ahead every other rival so far.

        • Davids says:

          Nelson, although entered for the May 27 Irish 2,000 Guineas, Auguste Rodin, will, for sure, run in the Epsom Derby on June 3, 2023. I’m really looking forward to the clash between Chaldean and Paddington but the answer may lay in the going. If it’s good to hard I’d say Chaldean has an advantage but good to soft Paddington for sure. The Siyouni line relish soft going which others are not as affective on that type of going.

          The forecast for Kildare on May 26 & 27 is for rain.

        • Davids says:

          Marhaba Ya Sanafi upsets Isaac Shelby, second, and American Flag, fourth, in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains while Blue Rose Cen and Lindy clock in first and second in the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches, while Never Ending Story was fifth. Lindy might be even better in the Prix de Diane at 2,100 metres (French Oaks). ParisLongchamp looked in good condition on video. Excellent racing at the highest racing.

  11. Matthew W says:

    Neither Bob nor Todd deserve our backing, Bob seemed to throw care to the wind, about overages, and face it—unless someone leaked the Forte positive to the NY Times we still would not know about a September infraction, in mid May, of the following year, making me wonder how many more, do we not know about? Was it the one time Forte and Emmanuel positives? Or are their others, that await another leak, for us to realize? Secrets and lies…..

    • Davids says:

      Matthew, what I hate the most in these controversies is that the trainers with impeccable records/reputations are besmirched, tarred with the same brush, by the grubbiness of others and it’s not just unique to the US either.

      • Todd Vaughn says:

        I sometimes wonder how hall of famers like Nick Zito and Leroy Jolley end their careers on such a low point. I doubt they forgot how to train. Maybe they were unable or unwilling to keep up?

        • Davids says:

          It runs the same ways as film stars. In film, if a star actor is in an expensively made film that flops at the the box office then producers don’t want to take a risk with that actor the next time around. Horse trainers are in a similar situation. It’s not the past that counts, it’s what your record is now – both milieus thrive on constant success but don’t ever fail, not once.

        • Lynda King says:

          Todd, Nick Zito was a very successful trainer. He started from the bottom, first working as a groom.I do not think that being unable or unwilling to keep up is a fair assessment.
          Nick like Shug and a couple of other trainers always put the horse first. Over the course of his career he had one horse that was accused of failing a drug test. The NYRA suspended his training license for 15 days and fined him $2000. The medication in question was a topical anesthetic that was safe for children.
          Perhaps a more fair assessment of Mr Zito is that he never fell into that trap of using whatever methods necessary including doping to satisfy the owners.
          He has said as trainers it is our responsibility to take care of these horses and treat them humanely.

          He and his wife are very well known as an advocate for the humane treatment for both active and retired racehorses and works with two nationally known foundations.

          The mindset of many (not all of course) owners since the late 80’s has been to win at any and all costs. Bragging rights around the water cooler on Monday morning are more important than the welfare of the horse. The horse has become a disposable commodity in that sense.

          I think many of you would be shocked at the number of Thoroughbreds that are sold for slaughter right off the tracks by trainers who are given orders by the owners to get rid of the horse amd get him one that will win.

          Might I suggest you follow Maggie Moss. She is one of the most concientious owners around and she has saved the lives of dozens of horses, some of whom were loaded on the kill trucks with new racing plates and their bridles on.

          Every year thousands of Thoroughbreds are sold for slaughter for what amounts to pennies on the dollar because they did win races.

          Some of the big breeding farms sell their pensioned broodmares for slaughter.

          What the vet did to Laoban was despicable and all she got was a 90 day suspension. The big breeding farm kept her on the payroll and she still works there. You can look it up and learn the name of that big breeding farm.

          Steve’s comment sums it all up perfectly: “Yes there is greed everywhere but I remember when the sport was ruled by sportsmen who always put the sport and the horses first. Now the sport is much more complicated and business oriented and we are unable to regulate it.”

          • Lynda King says:

            Edit: because they did NOT win races

            • Matthew W says:

              For a short time, I used to buy and sell from the farm auction in Woodburn, Oregon, I’d go check things out on Tuesday, then the auction was Wednesday… I waited, I would go check out the livestock, and there often were Thoroughbreds, from the small tracks at Salem, and Portland….I’d bring carrots and apples, and talk to them….teary eyed….I knew their fate….some nice animals, I tried to offer a moment of pleasure, for them… those 14 horse fields of geldings, at Hong Kong….have a similar fate, I fear….

              • Todd Vaughn says:

                Well done, Matthew. It’s hard to keep one’s hands clean and exist in the world, but small things matter. I wonder if Steve thinks we are getting a little off track here, but for many of us there are concerns about the consequencies of feeding the sport for our enjoyment.

            • Bonnie says:

              It’s called pure evil to allow slaughterhouses….or catastrophic breakdowns to happen to horses who were forcibly bred for GREED. Sport….is participants who are capable of verbally consenting to partake in. Jay Privman once said it’s never been about the racing….it’s always been about making money off of breeding.

          • Ms Blacktype says:

            Thank you, Lynda, for your post on slaughter and racehorses. It is quite common and a real tragedy given the number of rescue/rehoming groups available in almost every state. I’ve seen stakes winning horses sold for slaughter in the notes on Pedigree Query. Thankfully, I also see many, many notes about horses who were rescued at the 11th hour by a rescue organization or simply a person who loves and respects thoroughbreds. We need to do more to protect these equine athletes.

            • Matthew W says:

              There is a story…about a mare who won graded stakes races and had many foals….she was put on a trailer, with cattle—bound fir the slaughter sakes…she fell en route, and was so thoroughly cut up the guy refused to sell her, so a man took her home and nursed her back to life, I think she is still alive, in her late 20s now Canadian bred, her story is out there ….

              • Matthew W says:

                Her name is Press Exclusive….ran lots and foaled nine…was unrecognizable when she got to the slaughter sale. ….she was saved, by beautiful persons, I think she might still be alive…

                • Matthew W says:

                  An elderly couple I met at the track told me this story, they made a sort of pilgrimage to go see her…I think in New York but not certain….they both broke down in flowing tears when they led the grand mare up to see them, having seen the awful pictures, of a horse that was deemed too poor for slaughter sale….and there have been many who have come to visit her….

            • Lynda King says:

              Yes there are a number of organizations that save as many OTTBs as they can.
              These organizations exist because of donations and volunteers. They do not make any money off the sales of the horses.
              The cost to rehabilitate, health care and surgeries such as for bone chips cost a lot of money.
              I consider them to be true heroes. They work tirelessly in a thankless job and truly dedicated and devoted to the horses, donkeys, burros and mules.
              There is one about 40 miles from me who takes in not only horses but other equine, goats, cows, chickens, dogs and cats as well.

          • DTG says:

            I think I need some clarification concerning your post, Lynda.

            What owners have given trainers the orders to send their horses to slaughter?

            Which big breeding farms sell their pensioned broodmares for slaughter?

            Just curious…..


            • Lynda King says:

              DTG, I cannot divulge names because I know someone who has a rescue/rehab/rehabilitate Thoroughbred rescue in another state who actively rescues as many as they can.

              • DTG says:

                You should never make accusations like these without being able to back it up.

                Very disappointing.

                This site is rapidly going down hill. I used to love Steve’s Derby run down each and every week, but I am finished with this site.

                Keep up the excellent work, Steve.

                Good luck to everyone in the coming races.

                I’m Out!

          • Todd Vaughn says:

            Sorry if my remark about being unwilling or unable to keep up was misunderstood. I meant that as a compliment to Nick’s character.

        • SJ says:

          One was better with people, than he was with horses. The other, reverse is true. If you could survey the backstretch, especially NY, you could get many examples. The media often falls for trainers, since it allows them access. Often not a true evaluation.

    • Jeff says:

      Good points

  12. Lynda King says:

    Pletcher suspended for 10 days, $1000 fine.
    Forte DQ’d from Hopeful.
    Why is it the horse gets the brunt of this?

    • Steve haskin says:

      Has anyone had a worse week than Forte? Suffers foot bruise, scratched by state vets the morning of the Derby, has the horse he beat twice win the Derby, is put on the vets list and not allowed to run in the Preakness, is discovered to have had a positive drug test in the Hopeful Stakes eight months earlier, is disqualified from the Hopeful. Talk about a bad week

      • Lynda King says:

        Speaking horsewise, it has been an awful week for Forte.
        His record will forever be tarnished by this.
        I cannot help but think about Medina Spirit.
        Now Rich Strike is caught up in more drama.
        All these horses want to do is what they were bred to do…race to the best of their ability and run the best they have in them.

        • Discopartner says:

          Forte is healthy and should race again. He’s used up his bad luck allotment, for at least the next 20 years. Animals are the best, humans can’t hold a candle to them.

        • Jiffy says:

          Yes, it’s been a very bad week for Forte and, to a lesser degree, for all his fans. But I don’t think his record will be forever tarnished. This issue will not affect his two-year-old title, it will not affect the tapes of the Hopeful that show his performance, it will not affect all the other stakes that he’s won, it will not affect his stud fees, it will not affect the mares he attracts, and presumably it will not affect his future races. Yes, there will be an asterisk or notation in the record books, but most people don’t read the record books. And in light of his other accomplishments, it won’t make a lot of difference whether he won the Hopeful or not. If this had happened in the Kentucky Derby, it would be different–we still remember Dancer’s Image–but a disqualification in a two-year-old event eight months after the fact is not likely to be remembered by many a few decades from now. I’m much more concerned about his missing the Triple Crown races, which I believe he would be winning.

      • Discopartner says:

        Cute, you’re so right. He’s the innocent one, and is recovered from the slight bruise and happy as he usually is, per Pletcher. He better get his workouts in for the Belmont stakes, that’s a tough distance.

        I don’t think Pletcher or Repole did anything wrong. Trying to be discrete is now taken as hiding something. Transparent is what you want other people to be, not yourself. Red tape is its own industry, and is suited to the age of the automaton we seem to be living in.

        The NY Gaming Commission is at fault, for not being able to find a lab for 4 months, unbelievable, human blood test results arrive same day in the Boston area, admittedly a place with a lot of medical professionals. The sample got contaminated in the lab or the equipment they used wasn’t clean.

        • Nelson Maan says:

          I am with you Discopartner. Given the infinitesimal amounts they are talking about and the time those samples are “wandering around” suggest contamination…. saying it again>>>> contamination.

          This holier-than-thou attitude by the “regulators” will bring a lot of litigations before they come to their senses. Rather than tarnishing Hall of Fame reputations those people are just showing superb ignorance of scientific facts.

          BTW Discopartner, I read your comments in another mucky blog and I commend you for valiantly standing up to that bunch of trolls disguised as commenters.

          • Discopartner says:

            Thank you Nelson. I’m a little dubious of Pletcher’s management, not about mistreating horses or flouting the law, but knowing the rules and being wise about how it would play out in public, being able to make a choice when there are no good choices.

            It seems like horse racing had good and abundant rules all these decades, but didn’t have the facilities or the right people to enforce them, with access to testing labs, etc. They do have rules though.

            I hope Forte is able to run and win again. At least he’s unaware of the fuss.

      • Sarah Cole Rowe says:

        The horses who died had a worse week.

      • Deacon says:

        You sure nailed this story with that response. I feel very bad for Forte. He is still a champion in my book.
        I will only say that there was an investigation 11 or 12 years ago concerning his filly Life At Ten. Don’t think anything came of it. Big time horsemen have a way of sheltering themselves from harm. Some of them do anyway.
        I don’t care for Repole at all, he is way to over the top for me.
        It is always the poor horses that suffer thanks to greedy & insensitive humans.
        Old school thinkers & dinosaurs like myself don’t fit in todays racing world.
        The Derby is no longer the Derby I grew up loving…….

        I will always appreciate writers like Steve who keep this interesting & alive.

      • Laura Lee Lanham says:

        Just another chapter in the ongoing book about the shame found in horse racing.

  13. Lynda King says:

    Guardian dot com 5 05 2023 secretariat-kentucky-derby-triple-crown-horse-racing

    Steve, very nice article about Secretariat and Ron on The Guardian website.
    Very interesting, never knew the backstory on how Ron got into horse racing.
    He also talks about how intelligent Secretariat was and how he (Secretariat) never fought him, that he always listened to him (Ron). He spoke more about his mental abilities than his physical attributes.

  14. Steve Haskin says:

    Eric Reed is no longer the trainer of Rick Strike. Sounds like a dispute with the owner.

    • Terri Z says:


      • Terri Z says:

        That is so sad for the horse when the owner switches trainers after a dispute. Rich Strike is bonded to the exercise rider and to the people working in the stable. I hope that Richy bonds with the new connections. And Jimmy Jerkens, who is adept at handling difficult horses, isn’t even an option as he is going off to Saudi Arabia.

        • Lynda King says:

          Saw a photo of one of his handlers telling him goodbye and that he would miss him.
          Too many tears, Terri, just too many tears.

          • Todd Vaughn says:

            I’m not sure any of the principles, jockey, owner, trainer have aquitted themselves well since getting the roses. Be careful what you wish for? The Pearl? Hoping Rich Strike will be handled within whatever his limitations are now.

    • Ms Blacktype says:

      Sadly, it sounds like it was a dispute over rights to the proposed documentary by Peyton Manning’s Omaha Productions on Reed and Richie. Apparently, the owners took umbrage.

    • Matthew W says:

      Looks like they wanted to do a story about the trainer and his father, and of course the horse factors into his story—as the trainer related to the horse—that he trained to win the Kentucky Derby—-it seems like that should be OK, I don’t see how the owner has a case against such a story, unless Reid says things about the colts soundness issues, but he trained that longshot and they won a terrific Derby—that story deserves to be told..