Good Magic, the self-driving horse, has such valuable qualities for the Kentucky Derby

Robust outlook: the tougher the task, the more Good Magic will thrive. Photo: Jamey Price/Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders’ Cup

All the talk lately has been of Justify and Mendelssohn, but TRC analyst James Willoughby, who is assessing the action on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, believes there are good reasons to be optimistic about the chances of Saturday’s Blue Grass winner.



Episode 23: Blues Grass Stakes (April 7, Keeneland, Grade 1, 9f)

Winner: Good Magic
Jockey: Jose Ortiz (TRC Global Rank #9)
Owner: Stonestreet Stables Et Al (#15)
Trainer: Chad Brown (#3)
Sire: Curlin (#12)

Result: click here

Artificial intelligence will probably never penetrate society to the extent once imagined. This is not because it lacks utility, but because the potential for it was overstated before a sense of reality was imposed by the so-called AI Winter. Still, innovations like self-driving cars are on the horizon, and, if mankind wants a prelude of how they work, they need only watch the world’s first self-driving horse, Good Magic.

Simply put, Good Magic makes every horse previously described as a ‘professional’ appear a rank amateur by comparison. He is completely bombproof, able to survive anything a large-field can throw at him and come running out the other side.

We saw it first when he survived those torrid fractions in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile; here, in a less punishing race, he might have produced one of the most underrated Kentucky Derby trials of recent years.

To allude to Good Magic as a robot horse is not to think he is some sort of insentient machine; neither is it to underplay the role of his world-class rider Jose Ortiz – currently our #9 rider but only 24-years-old and a strong bet to rank in the top three before he is done. Far from it, upon passing the line in the Juvenile, the effects mike on NBC picked up an ebullient Ortiz saying “Good job, buddy” to his partner. While viewers were afforded no similar soundbite here, Good Magic thoroughly deserved a similar laudation.

Good Magic first received a bump on rounding the first turn. He was four-wide there, and we have frequently pointed out that the physics of the issue makes ground lost on the first turn more punitive than the second. They went 23.55 – 23.85 – 24.48 – 24.98 – 13.31 (pro-rated 26.62) here, meaning that the energy cost of running wide was greater early.

The way Good Magic picked up ground running into the far turn was characteristic of a top horse. Wide again there, he nevertheless took over the lead from the likeable Flameaway with authority in the straight (see video below).

Inside the last, the eye was drawn to the meanderings of third-home (disqualified) Sporting Chance, but this might have distracted the viewer from Good Magic’s idling after he had done a ton of running.

The final time here of 1:50.18 was admittedly not flash. Based on the balance of the other times, the track wasn’t so cloying as for the Santa Anita Derby, in which Justify clocked 1:49.72, but this is more of a concern for those trailing the winner than for Good Magic himself. After all, he had run to hard over extra terrain in the section of the course spanning the end of the first furlong to the beginning of the final one – witness the sharp decline from the 24.98 to the pro-rated 26.62 in the sectionals array reproduced above.

Notwithstanding Good Magic’s defeat of Bolt d’Oro in last year’s finale at Del Mar, there will be rivals who line up against him at Churchill Downs with more burnished talent.

In a match race, for instance, it is hard to see how he could beat Justify in a month of Sundays, but the Derby tests other qualities that are expressed nowhere near so markedly as in the robust outlook of this son of Curlin.

The tougher the task, the more Good Magic will thrive. Good luck out there, buddy.

Previously in this series

1. Sham Stakes (McKinzie)
2. Lecomte (Instilled Regard)
3. Jerome (Firenze Fire)
4. Smarty Jones (Mourinho)
5. Holy Bull (Audible)
6. Withers (Avery Island)
7. Robert B Lewis (Lombo)

8. Sam F Davis (Flameaway)
9. Risen Star (Bravazo)
10. Southwest (My Boy Jack)
11. Fountain of Youth (Promises Fulfilled)
12. Road to the Kentucky Derby Stakes (Gronkowski)
13. Patton Stakes (Mendelssohn)

14. Fountain of Youth (Bolt D’Oro)
15. Gotham (Enticed)
16. Tampa Bay Derby (Quip)
17. Rebel (Magnum Moon)
18. Louisiana Derby (Noble Indy)
19. Florida Derby (Audible)
20. UAE Derby (Mendelssohn)
21. Burradon Stakes (Gronkowski)
22. Santa Anita Derby (Justify)

View Comments
blog comments powered by Disqus

More Racing Articles

By the same author