Is My Boy Jack a True Kentucky Derby Contender?

handicapper Justin Dewby Justin Dew

If the prospect of using My Boy Jack in your Kentucky Derby exotics after his close-fast-and-then-flatten-out effort in the Louisiana Derby was appealing to you, are you at all concerned by the extra race they’re giving him in Saturday’s Lexington Stakes? Let’s just say he runs 2nd, picks up 8 points, and makes the Kentucky Derby field with a total of 40 points. What you are dealing with is a horse who was essentially given an extra prep race as a desperation measure, not because the horse needed additional conditioning or experience.

This isn’t a Don’t Get Mad situation, where a horse needs one more prep, not points/dollars. This is a blatant attempt to qualify for the Kentucky Derby, and it’s hard to imagine this race was on the schedule for My Boy Jack when they drew up their path to the Derby months ago. And how much should we like him to begin with? I suppose we can chalk up his non-factor-3rd in the Sham to that race being his first start on dirt. And based on how he’s run since, he may have been too close that day.

In the Southwest he ran big, but may have taken advantage of a rail that was the place to be, and it didn’t appear that he minded the slop. Still, a win is a win. And there are two ways we can look at his effort in the Louisiana Derby. He closed fast and wide, but also totally stopped in the final 1/16th. So to me, he is a Kentucky Derby superfecta filler at best.

That being said…..

….if he effortlessly romps at Keeneland, that could tell us he’s in good form for connections that have Triple Crown experience and know how to get a horse ready to run big. And we know My Boy Jack likes the slop. What if it rains on Derby Day?

Or, what if My Boy Jack runs 3rd in the Lexington and renders this entire discussion moot?

Another horse to watch this weekend is Dream Baby Dream, the Sunland Derby runner-up. He’s listed as probable for the Arkansas Derby, and with 20 Derby points so far, a 3rd-place effort should land him in the starting gate at Churchill Downs, while at the same time flattering Runaway Ghost, the Sunland Derby winner. He’s a little light on speed figures so far, but could be on the improve for trainer Steve Asmussen. He reminds me a lot of horses like Golden Soul and Commanding Curve. Which is to say he probably isn’t as talented as most of the Kentucky Derby contenders, but just might be among the few still running at the top of the Churchill stretch. I’d love to see this horse run 3rd on Saturday and come to Louisville under the radar at 40-1. Plus it would give me added confidence in Runaway Ghost, who is still on my short list of top Kentucky Derby longshot prospects.

The Case for Good Magic According to Dew

by Justin Dew

Trying to apply the Transitive Property of Equality (or Inequality) to horse racing is amateurish, simple-minded, and a recipe for a lot of losing tickets. That said, I am going to use such methods now as a partial basis for my argument that Good Magic is the best horse in this crop of Derby contenders.

First, let’s forget about his win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Forget all the speed figures. Go back and watch his runner-up effort in the Champagne Stakes in his second career start (#6, yellow silks). Good Magic sat close to a pretty quick pace, experienced some minor traffic trouble, swung wide, took the lead, and drew off from everyone except for the winner, Firenze Fire, who would bounce back from his poor Breeders’ Cup showing to win the Jerome and run 2nd in the Withers. In my opinion, Good Magic’s Champagne was every bit as impressive as his subsequent win in the Breeders’ Cup. To do it in his second career start was quite a feat.

In the Breeders’ Cup, Good Magic soundly defeated Solomini on the level. If you want to argue that Bolt d’Oro had a tough trip, fine. But I’d in turn argue that Bolt d’Oro was on the best part of the racetrack and wasn’t going to get to Good Magic that day. And even if Bolt d’Oro HAD caught and beaten Good Magic in what was Good Magic’s third career start and first around two turns, I would STILL prefer Good Magic moving forward off what would have been back-to-back impressive losing efforts, including (what would have been) a losing effort to the more-seasoned Bolt d’Oro on that one’s home track after shipping from the East Coast.

Triple Crown trophy

Will someone win the Triple Crown this year?

Now for the Horsey Algebra. Coming out of the Breeders’ Cup, I don’t see how anyone can argue that Good Magic IS NOT better than Solomini. Good Magic blew Solomini’s doors off at Del Mar on the level. From there, Solomini crossed the wire first at Los Al, beating McKinzie and Instilled Regard before being disqualified. And then in his 2018 debut, he had a bit of trouble before running 2nd to Magnum Moon in a very honest effort.

Yes, McKinzie was giving experience to Solomini at Los Al. And yes, Magnum Moon was also lightly raced at Oaklawn. I’ll concede both points. But Instilled Regard came back to win at Fair Grounds. And McKinzie came back to win the Sham and out-gamed Bolt d’Oro in the San Felipe. So my long-winded, somewhat-amateurish point is this: There is ample evidence to support the argument that Solomini is, depending on the day, on the same level as McKinzie, Instilled Regard, and Magnum Moon if we give Solomini some extra credit for needing the race and running into traffic. And since Bolt d’Oro and McKinzie were nearly inseparable in the San Felipe, it’s not totally absurd to put Solomini and Bolt d’Oro in the same sentence. Solomini beat him in the Breeders’ Cup, right? So, if Solomini arguably, and on the right day, equals (or almost equals) McKinzie, Bolt d’Oro, and Magnum Moon, and if Good Magic is better than Solomini, then you can logically make the case that Good Magic has demonstrated on the racetrack that he is, to this point, the leader of the pack.

Look, I get it. I’ve been following this sport for a long time. I understand that I am grossly over-simplifying the comparison of performances and talent and I’m not considering several other widely-accepted handicapping factors. But my argument is not totally baseless in an annoying college-Philosophy-professor sort of way.

Now for Good Magic’s 2018 debut. It was not anywhere near as poor as many observers said it was. Forget the alleged missed workouts due to the foot issue. He was wide all the way around, he tried to close into a slowish pace, made a move, and flattened out. But he didn’t stop. Word is by some speed figure measures, he ran better than the winner. So it did not darken his Kentucky Derby chances at all in my opinion. That said, he needs to show forward progress on Saturday in the Blue Grass against a tough bunch. I am not concerned about the Florida Derby efforts of the two horses who beat Good Magic in the Fountain of Youth. That pace was blazing and they had to finish at the back.

The horses that Good Magic beat in the Breeders’ Cup have since come back to do impressive things. Even Givemeaminit, a horse that Good Magic defeated by nearly 14 lengths in the Breeders’ Cup, came back to run within nine lengths of Derby contenders Noble Indy, Lone Sailor, and My Boy Jack in the Louisiana Derby. So I am choosing to look at Good Magic’s Fountain of Youth as exactly what is was: a prep for bigger things. And if I am right, we may just be looking at a defending champion who is primed for a big Spring. And depending on how things go on Saturday, he may be a big price in Louisville.

handicappers Dew Justin Rich Nilsen

 

— Editor’s Note: I got to know Justin Dew (left) when he was the official blogger for the very official Kentucky Derby website.  He’s an amazing father and fantastic gambler.  Just ask him.  He’ll tell you.  Welcome aboard, Justin!