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15-1 horse dug deep to win fastest 2 minutes

by Wally Hall | May 7, 2023 at 3:05 a.m.

It was still more than 40 minutes before the start of the 149th Kentucky Derby when the last pieces of the drama came as the horses walked over from the barns to the paddock.

The Derby, with all its spectacular pageantry, is still the longest day in sports for the fastest two minutes in sports.

About 25 minutes after Patrick Mahomes, the two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback, called "riders up," all that was left was the trumpet call for the horses to enter the track, playing of My Old Kentucky Home and finally, the race.

With no true speed in the race, the lead was contested by a few and the fractions were faster than anyone would have guessed and at the head of the stretch, Two Phil's looked to be taking command, but not for long as Javier Castellano asked 15-1 shot Mage to reach a little deeper.

The fractions, which showed that at six furlongs the race was being run like it was a sprint with a 1:10.11 time, took their toll on the front runners.

Mage, twice beaten by Forte and had never won a race other than when he broke his maiden on January 28 at Gulfstream Park.

His next outing was The Fountain of Youth, where he was fourth behind Forte, Rocket Can and Cyclone Mischief. In his third race, he finished second in the Florida Derby.

Yesterday was his first race away from Gulfstream Park and he got a little lucky, and not only with the speed. Angel of Empire, winner of the Arkansas Derby, got stuck behind some heavy traffic, but was closing ground on the leaders when they hit the finish line in 2:01.57.

No one is going to compare him to Secretariat, who won the Kentucky Derby 50 years ago in 1:59.4.

Big Red is the only horse in Derby history to run each quarter of the race faster than the last.

With a ride by Castellano that kept him out of trouble, Mage tracked the early speed and started his move on the turn to home and even though he was wide he put Two Phil's away quickly enough and finished ahead of the hard-charging Angel of Empire.

It was the first Derby win for the 45-year old Venezuela native who has won the Preakness twice and seven Breeder's Cup races.

Trainer Gustavo Delgado, 66 and also a native of Venezuela, got his first Derby win as well.

The day started with more shadows being cast on the sport when favorite Forte was scratched, one of five horses to not make it to the track Saturday, and it appeared officials were siding with caution after four horses have had to be put down since this meet started on April 29.

It even led to the suspension of trainer Saffie Joseph, who had to have two horses euthanized after races in the last week.

Handicappers weren't as high on Forte, the 2-year-old champion, but he had won five races in row and even though his last race, the Florida Derby, was won only by a length, he was still the horse to beat. Granted, his speed figures had not been as good as the day he won the Breeders' Cup, but his win in the Fountain was by more than four lengths under a hand ride.

Without him, the money poured in Angel of Empire all day long and he went off as the favorite at 7-2.

During the long day, the analysts and commentators had good things to say about the Arkansas Derby, which has become a major prep race for the Kentucky Derby.

Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort has become so synonymous with great horse racing, including the ever-competitive 3-year-olds, that 18 horses started the Derby yesterday and 10 had run at Oaklawn this season.

Print Headline: 15-1 horse dug deep to win fastest 2 minutes


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