Javier Castellano is no stranger to the Kentucky Derby, having ridden in the race 15 times before this weekend, but the Hall of Famer from Venezuela never finished better than third. His luck changed on Saturday night as he earned his first Derby crown atop of Mage, who edged runner-up Two Phil’s down the stretch.
The chestnut colt, who is trained by fellow Venezuelan Gustavo Delgado, beat 15-1 odds, needing 2:01.57 to take home the crown at the 149th annual run for the roses. Pre-race favorite Angel of Empire placed third and Disarm finished fourth.
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Mage, which is a son of 2018 Kentucky Derby runner up Good Magic, is owned by fractional share company Commonwealth, which allows outsiders to invest as little as $50 per share. Ramiro Restrepo, a businessman who works for thoroughbred auction house Fasig–Tipton Co., is also a co-owner of Mage. His group purchased Mage for $290,000 last year, and now they will enjoy the $1.8 million payout for winning the Derby (with $186,000 going to Delgado).
Mage won his debut at Gulfstream Park earlier this year before placing fourth at the Fountain of Youth in March. The colt’s chances to succeed improved when the field shrunk to 18 horses. Five were scratched because of injuries and health concerns leading up to the big race, which is the most since 1936. Mike Repole’s Forte, the early favorite, Practical Move and Skinner were among the scratches. Forte’s scratch left Mage as the only South Florida-based horse in the field.
It’s unclear if this was merely an unfortunate coincidence at Churchill Downs or if the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission veterinarians are beefing up safety measures and protocols for participating horses.
Seven horses in total have died at Churchill Downs (five euthanized) since last week. This list includes two owned by trainer Saffie Joseph Jr., who was suspended indefinitely by the track.
The slew of scratches is a reminder of how quickly the field can change, which is a problematic for a sport that’s been clouded in doping scandals. For the ones who got scratched, it’s a sizeable loss emotionally and financially.
On Saturday night, Mage and his owners weren’t thinking about losses.
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