Derby runner-up Good Magic — 'he's legit' — gets another shot at Justify in the Preakness

Good Magic has more than earned his spot as the faithful rival to Justify in this year’s Triple Crown series.

He was the 2-year-old champion of this class and ran well enough to win the Kentucky Derby, though he could not catch Justify.

“He’s a horse that’s going to show up every time. That, I know,” said trainer Chad Brown, who made his first appearance of the week at Pimlico Race Course on Friday morning. “He’s earned a lot of respect, even in defeat at the Derby. I feel like a lot people respect this horse now, that he’s legit. He’s not just a horse that had a lucky day at Del Mar in the Breeders’ Cup. He’s a real top-class, classic racehorse.”

That said, Brown acknowledged his horse will have to improve if he’s to turn the tables on Justify, as Exaggerator did on Derby champion Nyquist in 2016.

“We’re going to have to take another step forward, which I’m optimistic the horse can,” he said. “And we’re going to have to see if Justify, a horse that’s moved forward every start of his life so far, we probably have to see him finally take a slight regression to make up that amount of distance between the two. And it’s a horse race. That can happen. It’s hard for horses to keep moving forward.”

He envisions a similar race to the Derby, with Good Magic stalking Justify and trying to move on him at the top of the stretch.

“I think so. The way the draw shook out, Justify drew very well, outside. He’s away from everyone and doesn’t have any pressure on him,” said Brown, whose horse will start from the No. 5 post. “So we’re just going to have to get a clean break and save some ground, not let him get too far away.”

Good Magic, a 3-1 second choice in the morning line, is not as physically imposing as Justify and probably not quite as fast, but Brown said if he has an advantage, it’s his mind.

“This horse is so reserved, so smart,” he said. “He’s always handled stuff like a horse that has a ton of experience, even going into his first start and his first breeze for us. He’s always acted like a professional.”

Some observers have speculated that Brown did not want to bring Good Magic to Pimlico for his third start in six weeks and instead wanted to rest him up for the summer. But owner Bob Edwards has dismissed such talk, saying he didn’t push Brown to run the second leg of the Triple Crown.

Brown said he never planned to run Good Magic in the June 9 Belmont Stakes, so it made sense to give him another chance now, given his fitness coming out of the Derby.

“I don’t see a scenario where this horse runs in the Belmont at all,” he explained. “He just doesn’t strike me as a mile-and-a-half horse, and win or lose tomorrow, this horse won’t be running in the Belmont.”

Pimlico certainly holds warm memories for Brown, who won his first Triple Crown race, with Cloud Computing, in the 2017 Preakness. He’s won the last two Eclipse Awards as the best trainer in the country.

“It was just an incredible race last year, a special moment for me and my team,” he said. “To have our first Triple Crown win here at Pimlico — a track we’ve always liked coming to — but to have success in the Preakness is really the ultimate experience here in Baltimore. And I’m eager to get back in that infield if we can.”

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