Gray Magician Odds to Win the 2019 Kentucky Derby with Picks and Predictions
If you have ever doubted that Derby fever is a real thing, you just need to look at this horse. At best, the colt was a fringe Derby contender heading into his last race. He hadn't done much to prove he belonged before that race, and he really didn't do a ton in that race to make us think he could be a Derby winner, either. And right after the race, his trainer all but said he wasn't going to Kentucky. But then a couple of days passed, the fever grabbed hold, and suddenly the horse was training for the Derby. It probably won't go well, but the owners and trainer get to go to the Derby, and sometimes that is all that matters.
Last race: Trainer Peter Miller was already heading to Dubai with top contenders, so it really didn't cost him much to throw this horse on the plane as well. So, off to the UAE Derby it was. And it was a move that made a lot of sense. This was a fringe Derby contender, so by going to Dubai he faced a softer field for a major Derby prep. The race offers the same points as the biggest prep races here, and it has a $2.5 million purse that dwarfs the races here. We saw more American horses than ever head over this year, and since two qualified out of the race. I suspect we'll see more in the future. This horse took advantage of a pretty underwhelming field, finishing second behind Plus Que Parfait. It wasn't a particularly eye-opening performance.
Prior experience: The horse made his first three starts in the barn of Hector Palma, finishing third, second and third in sprint maiden races. When Miller took over, the first thing that happened is that the horse was stretched out a bit - his next four starts were at a mile. He immediately looked more comfortable, winning his first race for Miller by almost 10 lengths. That was enough to earn him a shot at stakes company - a huge jump. It only went okay - he finished fourth in the Sham. He dropped back to an allowance race next time out and weakened late to finish fifth. That was on a sloppy track which he didn't like, so he had an excuse. Desperate, they sent the horse all the way from California to Laurel for a listed stakes next. He finished second but couldn't chase down a leader that wasn't nearly what the colt will see in the Derby. Nothing that he had done made us think he was Derby-caliber - or even close, frankly. But off to Dubai he went, anyway.
Trainer: Peter Miller has had only one prior Derby entrant - Comma to the Top in the 2011 edition. That horse was a disastrous 19th and last but went on to win multiple graded stakes for Miller and then became Miller's stable pony after he retired. If you have watched the last two Breeders' Cups, though, you sure know Miller. He won the Turf Sprint with Stormy Liberal and the Sprint with Roy H both years, becoming the first trainer ever to repeat with two horses in the same year. He's a very capable trainer - even if he doesn't have the best horse here. Miller took over the training of this horse after his third start, and the horse has notably improved since.
Jockey: There is no clarity here this time. Joel Rosario rode the horse in Dubai and once before that, but he is on Game Winner , one of the favorites, in the Derby. That was a very easy decision for the jockey to make. Flavien Prat has been aboard for the other three starts under Miller. At this point Prat has not committed elsewhere, and he was likely waiting for Mike Smith to make his choice because Prat had previously ridden Omaha Beach. But Smith chose that horse, so it seems more likely that Prat will wind up here. Prat's best Derby performance in limited appearances was a third in 2017 on Battle of Midway - a horse he went on to win his second Breeders' Cup race with. Last year he was 10th on Solomini. Prat is off to his best statistical start of his career this year and is a talented rider.
Breeding: Gray Magician is a son of Graydar, a horse who dominated a very strong field in the Donn Handicap in his stakes debut. One of the horses he beat there was Take Charge Indy, the sire of Long Range Toddy in this Derby, so this is a bit of a second generation grudge match. This is Graydar's second crop of three-year-olds, and though he hasn't had a big breakthrough yet he is off to a solid start. Another son, Gray Attempt, won a prep race this year before falling off the Derby trail. Graydar is a son of Unbridled's Song - coincidentally also the damsire of Long Range Toddy - so the breeding for this race is solid on that side of the pedigree for this horse. Gray Magician's damsire is Johannesburg, a two-year-old champion in both the U.S. and Europe who was a disappointing eighth in the Derby. As a sire his biggest accomplishment is that he sired Scat Daddy, who won the Florida Derby but is better known as the sire of Triple Crown-winner Justify. This is a well-bred horse for this challenge - which is the best thing he has going for him.
Odds: Gray Magician was not listed in the final Kentucky Derby futures pool, which means that he was part of the 19/1 mutuel field. BetOnline has him listed at +5000 to win the Derby, which has him tied with Country House as the second longest shot in the field, ahead of only Japanese invader Master Fencer.
Can Gray Magician Win the 2019 Kentucky Derby?: No. Probably not. He has not shown that he is fast enough or talented enough against good horses. He is out of his depth in this spot.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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