Mage Timing

Zach Street struck gold in his first Kentucky Derby. The native of Nashville, TN., cashed a ticket worth more than $3,000. For Street it was simple — all he did was pick Mage to win. 

 Mage surged down the stretch to win the 149th Derby on May 6, earning trainer Gustavo Delgado, Sr., and jockey Javier Castellano their first garland of roses. 

 The crowd of 150,335 at Churchill Downs witnessed another upset. It just wasn’t quite on par with 80-1 longshot Rich Strike’s stunning victory a year ago in the first leg of the Triple Crown.  

 “It’s a lifetime experience,” Street said. “It was just a gut feeling. I just kind of went and it happened.” 

 Street’s betting logic may have defied a handicapper’s use of analytics; but it paid off. Street placed a wager of $100 on the chestnut colt that edged Two Phil’s by a length. 

 “I liked how the horse looked in stature and I loved his status,” he said. “He just looked so calm out of the gate.” 

 Rated a 15-1 choice in the morning line, Mage was unraced as a 2-year-old and entered the field of 18 having won only one of three 3-year-old races. But he had lost the Florida Derby by only a length in his last appearance, beaten by Forte, the morning line Derby favorite scratched on the morning of the race. Mage completed the 1 ¼-mile Run for the Roses in 2:01.57. 

“He’s (Mage) got a lot of heart,” Castellano said moments after crossing the finish line. “He’s a little horse, but has a big heart.” 

 With the victory, Mage’s career winnings now total $1,860,000. 

 When his horse won, Delgado, Sr., like Castellano a native of Venezuela, found it difficult to talk.  

Delgado Sr. echoed the sentiments of Castellano through his son Gustavo Delgado, Jr. 

  “It’s an amazing feeling, I have my entire family here,” he said. “. . .Sometimes you have to follow your intuitions and that’s what I did with this horse. Sometimes it pays out and sometimes it doesn’t. It really did today. When I saw him starting to make his move, I felt very confident.”  

 Delgado Jr., who serves as assistant trainer to Mage, said he had a “strong sense of security” as he approached the race. He described the chemistry between jockey, trainer and mount as a “work of art.” 

 “He was telling me step by step what he was doing with the horse,” Delgado Jr. said of his father’s preparations. “It was a masterpiece. . . Once (Mage) made the lead, it was how we had planned the race to happen. Everything went according to plan. This is the dream I had, a year-and-a-half ago, I wrote a note: ‘We’re going to win the Derby next year.’ Not having the experience, he (Mage) proved today that it didn’t matter.” 

 If you were as wise or as lucky as Street to have wagered on Mage, you were handsomely compensated. A $2 bet paid $32.42 to win, $14.58 to place and $9.08 to show.

The Preakness, May 20 at Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course, will be Mage’s next race should he decide to pursue the Triple Crown. 

 To some extent, his victory at Churchill Downs was overshadowed by a spate of fatalities,  seven horses dying in a span of 10 days. Days, including Derby contender Wild On Ice.Two horses were euthanized during the Derby undercard, the 3-year-old gelding Chloe’s Dream after a leg injury in the second race; the 3-year-old colt Freezing Point following an ankle injury in the eighth race.

“While we believe the incidents leading to this year’s Derby are anomalies, they are unacceptable and we remain steadfast in our commitment to safety and integrity,” Churchill Downs said in a prepared statement. 

Trainer Saffie Joseph Jr., who lost two horses to sudden, unexplained causes, was suspended indefinitely by Churchill Downs. His Derby hope, Lord Miles, was one of five horses scratched from the race.

Concerns about the sport’s safety record and care of horses have been rekindled in light of the deaths. Seven in total during the weeks before and during Derby. 

 PETA (The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), a long-time detractor of horse racing, took to Twitter to issue a statement. 

 “Thoroughbreds don’t consent to their careers as racers and are forced to sprint — often under the threat of whips and even illegal electric-shocking devices — at speeds so fast that they frequently sustain injuries and even hemorrhage from the lungs.” 

 Two interesting tidbits: 1.) This was the first time in 87 years that there had been so many scratches in the Derby; 2.)  Mage joins Justify (2018), Big Brown (2008) and Regret (1915) as the only Derby winners with just three previous starts.   

 “I’m so thankful for the opportunity to ride the horse,” said Castellano, a Hall of Famer who won his first Derby after 15 unsuccessful tries.“The whole team gave me the opportunity to ride this horse in the biggest race in the world. I had a lot of confidence in myself. This year would be the year. I thought this year would be the year. This horse was unbelievable today.” 

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