Amid the deaths and scratches that surrounded this year’s Kentucky Derby, the feel-good stories about the winner, Mage, were overshadowed. But there’s a lot to like about the fast-developing colt as he heads into the 148th running of the Preakness Stakes on Saturday.
He was only the third horse to win the Derby without racing as a 2-year-old and the fourth to win it with only three previous starts. Another horse that did both? Justify, the most recent Triple Crown winner, in 2018.
Mage’s only two losses have come against Forte, the morning-line favorite for the Derby who was scratched the day of the race. Now Mage is the lone Derby contender in the Preakness, and his biggest foe, First Mission, was scratched on Friday.
Still, there was drama when Mage had a mishap in his stall on Thursday and required stitches, one of his owners, Ramiro Restrepo, said Saturday. He said he was still set to race.
On THURSDAY, @MageHorse bumped his forehead in his stall, causing a superficial cut. He received care & treatment by the State Vet and resumed training per usual with no interruptions.
As per ALL Preakness starters, he was reviewed by the State Vets today and is ready to race.
— Ramiro A. Restrepo (@RamiroRestrepo) May 20, 2023
It was a sigh of relief for Mage’s trainer, Gustavo Delgado Sr., who won three Venezuelan Triple Crowns before coming to the United States in 2014 to set his sights on winning America’s biggest races.
“I just wanted to get to the Kentucky Derby, and we did, but this horse, we knew he was very, very good,” said Delgado Sr., who has saddled three horses in the Derby.
His son, Gustavo Delgado Jr., said his father was inspired by the success of the Venezuelan connections who won the Derby and the Preakness with Canonero II in 1971.
“He grew up in a generation where everybody was talking about it, and he always felt like he could accomplish that,” said Delgado Jr., who is his father’s assistant. “I remember when I was a kid, because when he was successful down in Venezuela, he would always tell me, ‘One day, we should go to the States and win one of those races.’”
Mage’s jockey, Javier Castellano, and his exercise rider, J.J. Delgado (no relation), are also from Venezuela. Castellano’s father and J.J. Delgado used to ride for Delgado Sr. there.
Castellano said he was motivated heading into the Derby when he saw the NBC broadcast’s mention of his 0‑for-15 record in the race. He has enjoyed more success in the Preakness, winning in 2006 with Bernardini and in 2017 with Cloud Computing.
Another challenge for the Delgados when they came to the United States was finding good horses and owners who believed in them. In Mage’s case, the Delgados teamed up with the bloodstock agent Ramiro Restrepo, whose family emigrated from Colombia before he was born, at the Fasig‑Tipton 2‑year‑old sale in Timonium, Md. They liked that the horse was a near replica of his sire, Good Magic, who finished second in the Derby and fourth in the Preakness.
They liked him so much that they went over their budget, spending $290,000. So they called up a few people to help share the costs, including the real estate investor Sam Herzberg and the entrepreneurs Brian Doxtator and Chase Chamberlin, whose Commonwealth app allows fans to buy shares in racehorses for a little as $50.