Mage raced to victory Saturday in the scratch-filled 149th Kentucky Derby, bringing trainer Gustavo Delgado and jockey Javier Castellano his first wreath of roses.
Capping off a sad and tumultuous week at famed Churchill Downs, the sprinter, the grandson of 2007 Preakness champion Curlin and 2008 Derby winner Big Brown, stayed near the lead throughout before finding a second wind in the homestretch at Churchill Downs.
Mage had turned heads with an impressive place in the Florida Derby five weeks ago, in a race won by Forte, the favorite that day, but Forte was eliminated before Saturday’s race.
“He (Mage) has a lot of heart,” Castellano said moments after crossing the finish line. «He is a small horse but he (he has) a big heart.»
Delgado, who like Castellano is a native of Venezuela, could barely speak after his horse won.
«When I came to the United States, my first dream (was) to go to the Kentucky Derby!» Delgado said as a member of his entourage happily waved a Venezuelan flag behind him.
Mage went 15-1, the eighth most popular betting pick in the field of 18. A $2 winning bet returned a payout of $32.42.
Mage’s path to Triple Crown glory will now pass through Baltimore, where the 148th edition of the Preakness is set for May 20 at Pimlico Racecourse.
He Belmont Stakesthe latest jewel of the holy trinity of horse racing, is scheduled for June 10, just outside New York City.
The Derby soared under a cloud on Saturday at Churchill Downs as seven horses died there last week, including the Derby hopeful. wild on ice.
In the second race on Saturday, 3 year old Chloe’s dream he suffered a right knee injury and was euthanized, trainer Jeff Hiles told The Associated Press. Then, in Race 8, Freezing Point suffered a left ankle injury and was put down, trainer Joe Lejzerowicz told the AP.
He deaths led to indefinite suspension of trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. in what Churchill Downs Incorporated called the «highly unusual sudden deaths» of two of his horses.
Lord Miles, trained by Joseph, was scheduled to take part in the Derby, but was scratched by suspension.
The deaths renewed concerns about the safety record of the sport and the treatment of horses.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), a longtime critic of horse racing, said this week that thoroughbreds «not consent» to their careers as runners and are «forced to run, often under the threat of whips and even illegal electric shock devices, at speeds so fast that they frequently suffer injuries and even hemorrhage in the lungs.»
Hours before the race, morning favorite Forte was ruled out due to a bruised right foot. Forte was the fifth horse forced to retire late from the race.
There haven’t been this many scrapes in the Derby since 1936, when five entrants withdrew just before the race.
This is a developing history. Please check for updates.