Few Thoroughbreds presumably have accumulated as many frequent flyer miles in a single year as Magic Wand did during the course of 2019. From her Coolmare base in Ireland, the Galileo mare made three trips to the U.S., two to England, and one each to Dubai, Australia, and Hong Kong.
Although she posted only one win in that 12-race campaign, Magic Wand’s consistency against much of the world’s best, including a second-place effort to Bricks and Mortar in Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) 12 months ago, make her the horse to fear in the $1 million renewal of the 1 3/16-mile race at Gulfstream Park on Saturday.
Reaching the winner’s circle only in the Nov. 9 Mackinnon (G1) at Flemington in Melbourne, Magic Wand was nonetheless in the frame in most of her races. Besides the Pegasus Turf, she also finished second to Bricks and Mortar in the Arlington Million (G1), to Iridessa in the Pretty Polly (G1), to stablemate Magical in the Irish Champion (G1), and fell a nose short of winning the Hong Kong Cup (G1) at Sha Tin in her most recent start on Dec. 8.
The world-traveling has given Magic Wand plenty of exposure to racing in Lasix-free environments, which both the Pegasus Turf and the Pegasus World Cup (G1) on the main track will be for the first time on Saturday.
Magic Wand finished third in the Man o’ War (G1) last May, evidence she doesn’t necessarily tower over Americans considered a cut or two below a Bricks and Mortar on the quality scale. Man o’ War runner-up Arklow went on to capture the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1), but was below par when eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) last time.
“He’s a little bit of a tricky horse to figure out where he’s going to place himself,” trainer Brad Cox said. “I’ve seen him break and the rider content with where he’s sitting where he is and him taking the rider up into the race. Given that he’s six years old, we still haven’t figured him out. I just know he runs well.”
A maiden as recently as Sept. 29, Mo Forza subsequently rattled off three straight graded wins against fellow 3-year-olds in the Twilight Derby (G2), Hollywood Derby (G1), and Mathis Brothers Mile (G2). He faces his elders for the first time in stakes company Saturday.
“He could have won a couple races before breaking his maiden, but he just had some bad luck,” trainer Peter Miller said. “It’s just been maturation. He’s starting to figure the game out. He’s the kind of horse you can put anywhere in the race. He’s won from up close and he’s won from pretty far back, so he’s very versatile. I think the distance should suit him well.”
Chad Brown, who trained Bricks and Mortar, has three in the Pegasus Turf. Without Parole was third to stablemate Uni in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1), easily his best run since taking the 2018 St James’s Palace (G1) at Royal Ascot. Instilled Regard exits a win over Admission Office and Channel Cat in the nine-furlong Ft. Lauderdale (G2), while Sacred Life was second behind Next Shares in the Seabiscuit H. (G2) at Del Mar in late November.
Grade 1 veteran Sadler’s Joy was a last-out winner of the Red Smith (G3) at Aqueduct and owns a pair of graded wins on the Gulfstream sod, but has primarily relished longer distances. The same can be said for Zulu Alpha, a three-time graded winner last season and a solid fourth, beaten two lengths, in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. Henley’s Joy‘s form has been uninspiring since posting a 20-1 upset of the Belmont Derby (G1) last July, while longshot Tusk is the lone also-eligible following a recent win in the Tropical Turf (G3).