Good Magic's fast start leads to disappointing finish
BALTIMORE (AP) — Dueling in the fog in front of 134,487 fans straining to see the action, Good Magic gamely jumped to the lead in the Preakness and held the rail.
Every time Kentucky Derby winner Justify got close, Good Magic withstood the challenge. After one horse nosed in front, the other gave no ground.
"It was like they had their own private match race," Justify trainer Bob Baffert said.
In the end, however, Good Magic and jockey Jose Ortiz again had their faces sprayed with mud as Justify reached the finish line ahead of the field.
On Saturday, in a thick fog and on a sloppy track, Justify roared past front-running Good Magic with around 70 yards to go and won the Preakness to keep alive his quest to win the Triple Crown.
Two weeks earlier in the Derby, Justify beat runner-up Good Magic on a soggy day at Churchill Downs. In the rematch, Good Magic gave the undefeated champion everything he could handle before fading to fourth place.
Instead of being encouraged about his horse surging to the lead, Good Magic trainer Chad Brown was horrified with how the race unfolded.
"I'm disappointed with the trip. We're inside the other horse the whole way," Brown said. "Unfortunately, our horse took the worst of it, being on the fence, getting pressed the whole way. He's just not a horse than runs on the lead."
Good Magic actually did a good job of it, but things might have been different if the chestnut colt had not bolted in front.
"You guys asked me all week what I want to do," Brown said. "You know, sit off the pace and follow the horse around the track. Instead, he's following us around."
Near the winner's circle after the race, Ortiz explained to Brown what went wrong.
"I tried to take back a little, but the pace was too fast," Ortiz said. "I made my run the same time he did, but I didn't have the horse underneath me."
Brown identified the No. 5 post position — two inside Justify — as part of the problem.
"The post really hurt," Brown said. "When the horse broke so well as he did and you're inside the other horse, it doesn't leave the rider with too many choices."
Brown took Good Magic to Baltimore because he was confident he had the horse to knock Justify from the unbeaten ranks.
"But it just wasn't a good trip," Brown lamented. "I would have liked to see a different scenario, maybe where we're just off the pace a little bit, we weren't getting pressed on the fence the whole way. Disappointing."
Good Magic had never finished out of the money before. In six previous races, he won two — including the Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes in April — finished second three times and took third once.
"I'm going to pick the races that I think fit this horse," Brown said. "If (Justify) is there, then we're going to have to run against him again. He's a great horse. He proved it again today. But where he's running isn't going to dictate the schedule for our horse."