April 18, 2019

Kentucky Derby Report – Champ doesn’t meet expectations in return

Promises Fulfilled looked much-improved opening 2018 with a convincing win in the Fountain of Youth (G2) (c) Adam Coglianese Photography

Good Magic lacked the necessary finishing kick returning with a non-threatening third in the Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park. Disappointment came easy after the 3-5 favorite failed to fire, but the 1 1/16-mile race remains a steppingstone and it would be premature to give up on the 2-year-old champion.

He’s still lightly-raced and couldn’t win last year before delivering when it counted most in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Del Mar. And similar to eventual Kentucky Derby winner Alysheba (4-5 in 1987 Blue Grass [G1]), Good Magic likely will be a solid favorite in his final prep despite being eligible for a non-winner of two races lifetime allowance.

Promises Fulfilled surprised posting an 18-1 upset, scoring in wire-to-wire fashion, and improved significantly with a career-best 104 BRIS Speed rating. Irad Ortiz Jr. picked up the mount and the Dale Romans-trained colt will bring high speed to the first leg of the Triple Crown by virtue of the 50-point prize.

A major weekend lies ahead with a trio of Road to the Kentucky Derby series qualifiers scheduled for Saturday, including the return of Bolt d’Oro in the San Felipe (G2). The juvenile star faces a serious challenger in McKinzie.

Fountain of Youth

Making his first start since late November, Promises Fulfilled was easy to overlook in the Dale Romans barn. The colorful conditioner handles a large contingent of 3-year-old prospects, with stablemates Free Drop Billy, Tiz Mischief, Dak Attack, Hollywood Star, Storm Runner and C.S. Incharge all meriting attention in previous months.

Promises Fulfilled received little respect when making his stakes bow and juvenile finale in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2), leaving the starting gate at double-digit odds despite winning his first two outings. The chestnut son of Shackleford got away with slow fractions on a short lead before giving way in the Churchill Downs stretch and registered a modest 90 BRIS Speed rating after finishing 2 ½ lengths behind Enticed and Tiz Mischief in third. Promises Fulfilled added front wraps and drew the far outside post for his unceremonious return in a speed-laden Fountain of Youth field.

Strike Power, who blazed the way leading wire-to-wire in his first two starts sprinting, looked like a need-the-lead type destined to set sail from an inside post. Machismo and Storm Runner also appeared capable of applying serious early pressure during the opening stages (Storm Runner advanced to momentarily challenge his stablemate on the backstretch before having the brakes applied by Joel Rosario). I couldn’t envision a wire-to-wire performance but Romans put it best afterward when stating “a lot of times that speed doesn’t materialize.”

Promises Fulfilled broke on top and hustled his way clear into the first turn, crossing over in front of rivals to show the way unopposed through reasonable splits of :23.80, :48.39 and 1:12.60. Strike Power made him work through most of the short stretch, but Promises Fulfilled kept finding more to win going away by 2 ¼ lengths late.

“The trainer told me to go to the lead and hold on…the trainer was right,” Irad Ortiz said.

Owned by Robert J. Baron, Promises Fulfilled received an excellent 102 BRIS Late Pace rating. He improved 12 points upon his previous best Speed rating but did have everything his own way on the front end. Longer distances and pace pressure loom as potential obstacles but Promises Fulfilled can validate the impressive win when stretching out to 1 1/8 miles in the March 31 Florida Derby (G1).

Strike Power, who easily held second by 2 ¼ lengths over Good Magic, conceded pacesetting duties entering the first turn and held his positioning throughout. A son of champion sprinter Speightstown, Strike Power hails from a stamina-rich female family and the Swale (G3) winner outperformed expectations of those who felt he was limited to one-turn distances. It would be nice to see him switch leads in the stretch and we’ll learn more when Strike Power returns for the Florida Derby, which is also expected to attract Audible and Catholic Boy.

Good Magic, who was ruled out of the Florida Derby prior to the Fountain of Youth, received an ideal stalking trip before coming under a ride nearing the completion of the far turn. He briefly appeared to be laboring as the top two started to get away from him while straightening for home but the Curlin colt didn’t fold his tent, finishing with decent energy to be a clear third.

His profile took a hit with the setback but jockey Jose Ortiz expressed the optimism emanating from Good Magic’s camp: “He’s coming off the layoff and I’m sure he will move forward with this race under his belt, next time we’ll be ok.”

“It looked like he needed the race,” trainer Chad Brown added. “Hopefully, he got what he needed out of it and go on to the next step.”

Over the last six years, Kentucky Derby winners have posted a 15-0 record in 3-year-old starts prior to the first Saturday in May but the recent trend holds as much relevance as the 20-year losing streak endured by favorites from 1980-1999. Being favored didn’t negatively impact any runner during that time span.

Prep races serve as building blocks and every Kentucky Derby winner in the 1990s lost at least one sophomore appearance beforehand. Seven years ago, Super Saver dropped both starts before wearing the roses and in the last 31 years, three future Hall of Famers (Silver Charm, Winning Colors and Alysheba) have been defeated in 3-year-old preps.

Lower BRIS Speed ratings do rate as a legitimate concern. Accomplished juveniles need to keep moving forward at age 3 or the competition catches up and surpasses them. Good Magic didn’t have to match the 105 Speed rating registered in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but a seven-point decline (98) raises red flags.

He’s expected to point toward the April 7 Blue Grass (G2) at Keeneland and winning won’t be essential; Good Magic must deliver a faster performance. He’ll be up against it on Kentucky Derby Day if his BRIS Speed numbers don’t reach triple-digit territory in the final prep.

Up Next

Multiple Grade 1 winner Bolt d’Oro didn’t break cleanly in 3-of-4 starts last year and couldn’t overcome a poor start when finishing third at 3-5 in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). McKinzie will try to take advantage of any rust and the 1 1/16-mile distance of the San Felipe could favor him.

Saturday’s Tampa Bay Derby (G2) drew 11 runners but Free Drop Billy and Enticed were cross-entered as a back-up for Saturday’s Gotham (G3) at Aqueduct. Their travel plans were delayed Wednesday by the storm hitting New York. Vino Rosso adds blinkers after a fast-closing third in the Sam F. Davis (G3) and I like his chances for an initial stakes victory.

Firenze Fire is among the top draws in a nine-horse Gotham at a one-turn mile.

Kentucky Derby Top 20

  1. SOLOMINI: Opens 3yo campaign in 3/17 Rebel
  2. BOLT D’ORO: Accomplished 2yo returns in Saturday’s San Felipe
  3. GOOD MAGIC: Juvenile champ needs more in final prep
  4. AUDIBLE: Florida Derby next for decisive Holy Bull winner
  5. MCKINZIE: Unbeaten colt provides stiff opposition in San Felipe
  6. PROMISES FULFILLED: Fountain of Youth winner joins list
  7. CATHOLIC BOY: Came back little short in Sam Davis, Florida Derby next
  8. TITLE READY: Rebel next for up-and-coming colt
  9. VINO ROSSO: Curlin colt adds blinkers for Tampa Bay Derby
  10. COMBATANT: Second in three straight qualifiers
  11. MY BOY JACK: Muddy Southwest winner could aim for Louisiana Derby
  12. FREE DROP BILLY: Scratched from Fountain of Youth for Gotham
  13. SPORTING CHANCE: Rebel an important test after Southwest comebacker
  14. MAGNUM MOON: Exciting colt slated to try stakes in Rebel
  15. STRIKE POWER: Handled two turns finishing second in Fountain of Youth
  16. IMPACT PLAYER: Improved with blinkers but waiting on his stakes debut
  17. INSTILLED REGARD: Lecomte winner exits flat Risen Star
  18. UNTAMED DOMAIN: Switches to main track in Tampa Bay Derby
  19. BRAVAZO: Risen Star upset guaranteed him a Derby berth
  20. MENDELSSOHN: Irish-based colt tries synthetic track in Friday’s Patton