Co-Owner Restrepo: ‘This Boy Changed Our Lives Overnight’
Middle Jewel of Triple Crown May 20 at Pimlico Race Course
BALTIMORE — As long as everything continues to go well, OGMA Investments, Ramiro Restrepo, Sterling Racing and CMNWLTH’s Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Mage will make his next start in the 148th Preakness Stakes (G1) Saturday, May 20 at historic Pimlico Race Course.
“He’s awesome. He’s really happy and alert and looks good, and he’s feeling good in the stall,” Restrepo said Sunday morning from Churchill Downs. “If all remains as is, we’re going to Preakness.”
Trainer Gustavo Delgado, nicknamed Puma because of his thick mane of silver hair, said that Mage came out of his stretch-running length victory over Two Phil’s in “very good” condition.
With a crowd of media and racing enthusiasts looking on, Delgado took the traditional call from Maryland Jockey Club interim president Mike Rogers officially inviting Mage to the 1 3/16-mile Preakness, Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.
“I know my dad. He doesn’t need much,” assistant trainer Gustavo Delgado Jr. said. “If it’s up to what we see now, it’s high expectation that we’ll go to the Preakness.”
Restrepo, the Florida-based bloodstock agent and representative for the Fasig-Tipton sales company, called the Preakness “the logical move.”
“Obviously it’s a dream in the background,” Restrepo said. “But in the end, Mage has to want the Triple Crown. If he comes out of the race as he appears to us here, then I know ‘Puma’ is going to want to go to the Preakness, and all the partners are going to want to go, too, but it’s never going to be at the expense of the horse. If my guy is feeling the way he’s feeling [now], then on to Baltimore and crab cakes we go.
“The cliché is, the horse has to take you there and the horse has to be feeling good, but it’s also reality. You don’t want to go with something that’s not ready to fire a big race. But the horse is feeling good and he looked great this morning. He’s very content and ate everything yesterday. If everything goes according to plan, yeah, of course we want to go to the Preakness,” he added. “We’ll chat with the other two partners that are not here this morning, but everybody would love to go as long as the horse stays on course. We have no reason not to go if everything stays how it’s looking. He looks great, he’s happy, his head’s hanging outside the stall eating his hay. He’s just chilling. It’s pretty cool to see him come back like that.”
The elder Delgado said Mage will likely get two days off before returning to the track Tuesday. The colt will remain at Churchill Downs, with the Delgados having a couple of other horses to run at the Louisville track.
Restrepo and the Delgados purchased Mage for $290,000 at Fasig-Tipton’s Midlantic 2-year-old in training sale held at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium a couple of days after last year’s Preakness. Because they went over budget, urged on by the elder Delgado to keep bidding, Restrepo subsequently put together a partnership, adding Sam Herzberg’s Sterling Racing and Brian Doxtator and Chase Chamberlin’s CMNWLTH micro-shares syndicate.
“This is a game you lose way more than you win. It’s a labor of love,” Restrepo said. “You’re just dream chasing, and it’s come through for all of us. This boy changed our lives overnight.”
The 1 1/4-mile Derby, for which Mage went off at 15-1 odds, was his first start away from Gulfstream Park. Mage won his debut Jan. 28, was fourth in the Fountain of Youth (G2) won by champion Forte, then closed from last of 12 to take second by a length, again behind Forte, in the Florida Derby (G1). A son of Good Magic, Mage became the 25th Kentucky Derby winner to come out of the Florida Derby, extending its status as the most productive prep race.
Jockey Javier Castellano has won the Preakness Stakes twice, coincidentally both with unraced 2-year-olds: Bernardini in 2006 and Cloud Computing in 2017. Castellano, who like the Delgados is from Venezuela, rode Mage for the second time in the Kentucky Derby, having previously been aboard in the Fountain of Youth. The Derby victory was the Hall of Fame jockey’s first in his 16th attempt.
“Javier is almost family,” Delgado Jr. said. “His father rode for [my father]. J.J. [Delgado], his exercise rider, rode with Javier’s dad. We’re not just from the same country but the same town as well. We felt like [it took] our little gang, [our] family to win this. And we took that into consideration when we were deciding who was going to be the rider in the Kentucky Derby. Thank God it [worked] out, because the guy needed the race. More than us, I think.”
In the Preakness, Mage very likely will get a rematch with Forte, last year’s 2-year-old champion and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) winner who was scratched the morning of the Derby with a foot bruise. Forte won Gulfstream Park’s Fountain of Youth (G2) and Florida Derby (G1) in his only two starts this year, races in which Mage came in fourth and second, respectively.
Trainer Todd Pletcher termed Forte’s foot as “good” Sunday morning and said the champion should have a timed workout in the next few days. Both Forte and Pletcher will stay in Kentucky for the near future, with Pletcher having a division at Churchill Downs. Forte, who galloped Saturday morning before being withdrawn from the Derby, did not train Sunday but will go back to the track Monday, Pletcher said.
The Hall of Fame trainer has never won the Preakness. He generally skips it with his Derby horses unless they win the race, preferring to target the 1 1/2-mile Belmont (G1) at his home track of Belmont Park in New York to running back in two weeks. Pletcher’s two Derby winners, Always Dreaming in 2017 and Super Saver in 2010, both finished eighth at Pimlico.
Pletcher said Forte deserves the opportunity to try to win a Triple Crown race. However, if Forte doesn’t make the Preakness, he said the colt likely will be pointed for the Travers (G1) in August at Saratoga rather than the Triple Crown finale.
“If he runs in the Preakness, then he’d probably not run in the Belmont,” he said. “We’d probably focus on the Travers after that, have a race before in the Jim Dandy or Haskell.”
Asked if watching the Derby won by a horse Forte had twice beaten added salt to the wound of the scratch, Pletcher said: “I think it maybe puts some of the naysayers about the Florida Derby and [that] Forte didn’t run a good race … to rest. As far as salt to the wound, look, it didn’t work out. But we know he’s a special horse: champion 2-year-old, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner, two-for-two at 3.”
Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen said Kentucky Derby fourth-place finisher Disarm and Red Route One are under consideration for the Preakness. “One, if not both,” he said. “Both would definitely be under consideration.”
Red Route One earned a fees-paid berth in the Preakness by virtue of winning Oaklawn Park’s Bath House Row. Both colts are owned by Ron Winchell’s Winchell Thoroughbreds and are sons of Gun Runner, the 2017 Horse of the Year campaigned by Winchell and Three Chimneys Farm.
Disarm, the Louisiana Derby runner-up who secured enough points to get in the Kentucky Derby by finishing third in Keeneland’s Lexington (G3), finished a total of 1 3/4 lengths behind Mage.
“I was very happy with how Disarm came out of the race, bright and alert and traveling well,” Asmussen said. “He’s a tough horse. We thought Disarm ran solid. We wanted a little better result, but he competes well against the best 3-year-olds in the country and we expect him to continue to get better.
“[Jockey] Joel [Rosario] gave him a good trip — just hung up with a little traffic a couple of times,” he added. “I think the horse might find just a bit more acceleration. He obviously stays on nice.” Red Route One worked five furlongs in 1:01.20 Sunday at Churchill, the second-fastest of eight at the distance. Asmussen said he would work again May 13, while Disarm would work a week from Monday. He had said previously that his Preakness Day horses would ship to Baltimore on the Tuesday before the race.
“They’re very similar,” Asmussen said of the two chestnut colts. “They match up with each other. They’re just at different stages as far as their development.”
Asmussen has won the Preakness twice: with two-time Horse of the Year Curlin in 2007 and two years later with the filly Rachel Alexandra, who also was voted Horse of the Year. Both horses are in the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame.
Trainer Larry Rivelli, en route back to Chicago, indicated that the Preakness is possible for Kentucky Derby runner-up Two Phil’s. The winner of Turfway Park’s Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3), Two Phil’s pressed a hot pace and took the lead at the top of the stretch, digging in stubbornly but unable to hold off Mage while finishing a half-length ahead of 4-1 favorite Angel of Empire.
Trainer Brad Cox has a definite Preakness contender in Lexington winner First Mission, another unraced 2-year-old. Right after Saturday’s race, Cox called it doubtful any of his Derby quartet — headed by third-place Angel of Empire and fifth-place Hit Show — would run back in two weeks. He softened that stance slightly Sunday morning, indicating that it’s still too early to know if any of his four Derby horses would move on to the Preakness.
“Right now, First Mission is our Preakness horse,” Cox said. “I don’t know if we’ll add any of these horses, but we’ll have to make a decision soon. First Mission had a fantastic work yesterday [five furlongs in :59.80 seconds]. I’m very happy with what we’re seeing.”
Trainer Keith Desormeaux indicated that Confidence Game will be considered for the Preakness. Confidence Game finished 10th in the Kentucky Derby in his first start in 10 weeks since he won Oaklawn Park’s 1 1/16-mile Rebel (G2).
According to the Maryland Jockey Club racing office, non-Derby horses under consideration for the Preakness include Jan. 28 Southwest (G3) winner Arabian Knight and National Treasure, second in the American Pharoah (G1) and third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Sham (G3), for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert; 2022 Champagne (G1) winner Blazing Sevens, exiting a third in the Blue Grass (G1) for defending Preakness-winning trainer Chad Brown; Il Miracolo, most recently sixth in the Florida Derby; Mine That Bird Derby winner Henry Q, third in the Sunland Park Derby (G3); and Lecomte (G3) and Kentucky Jockey club (G2) winner Instant Coffee, also trained by Cox.
Chase the Chaos, who earned an automatic berth in the Preakness for his victory in the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields, is also being considered. Perform, winner of the Federico Tesio at Laurel Park, also has a spot but would need to be supplemented for $150,000 on entry day to run.
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