Breeders' Cup International Scouting Report: Magical

December 31st, 2020

As the excellent runner-up who forced Enable to pull out a bit extra in the 2018 Turf (G1), when just beginning her rise, a fully mature Magical returns as the one they all have to beat. The seven-time Group 1 winner, along with stablemate Mogul, gives O’Brien a strong hand in pursuit of his seventh Breeders’ Cup Turf victory.

The daughter of Galileo and multiple Group 1 vixen Halfway to Heaven, whose 2008 highlights included the Irish 1000 Guineas (G1), has outstripped the accomplishments of her dam as well as her full siblings. Halfway to Heaven’s first foal was Group 3 scorer Flying the Flag, and later came triple Group 1 heroine Rhododendron, winner of the 2016 Fillies’ Mile (G1), 2017 Prix de l’Opera (G1), and 2018 Lockinge (G1). Also twice classic-placed, memorably to Enable in the 2017 Oaks (G1), Rhododendron was arguably unlucky to finish second in that fall’s Filly & Mare Turf (G1) at Del Mar.

Magical nearly took a Group 1 laurel as a juvenile herself, just missing in the 2017 Moyglare Stud (G1) to Happily whom she’d beaten previously in the Debutante (G2). After fourths in the Prix Marcel Boussac (G1) and Fillies’ Mile, she filled that same spot in her sophomore bow in the Prix de la Grotte (G3).

Pegged as an Oaks candidate, Magical unfortunately suffered a setback in the spring of her 2018 campaign that ruled her out of the classics. She resumed with a front-running victory in the Kilboy Estate (G2), followed by a two-month break.

Magical accordingly entered the fall of 2018 as a fresh filly ready to make up for lost time. A troubled fourth in the Matron (G1) and a sightseeing 10th in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1), she moved forward to earn her first Group 1 in the British Champions Fillies & Mares (G1). Magical faced a tight turnaround for the Breeders’ Cup, but Found had executed a similar Irish Champions Weekend/Arc/British Champions Day game plan for O’Brien in 2015, and the playbook worked again – only Magical had to settle for second to Enable, while nine lengths clear of the rest at Churchill Downs.

As a 4-year-old in 2019, Magical swept her first two tighteners, the Alleged (G3) and Mooresbridge (G2), and rolled by seven in the Tattersalls Gold Cup (G1). Her first serious test of the year came in the Prince of Wales’s (G1) at Royal Ascot, where the world-class Crystal Ocean got first run on her under a crafty Frankie Dettori. Magical ran her heart out in second, altering course as the winner crossed her path, and again finding herself herded in deep stretch. Regardless, the damage was done once Crystal Ocean stole a march on the soft ground. More aggressive early tactics would have given Magical a better shot, even if it didn’t change the end result.

Magical then played second fiddle to Enable twice last summer, in the Eclipse (G1) and Yorkshire Oaks (G1). Next time in the Irish Champion (G1), Magical was herself the class of the field and obliged in convincing stalk-and-pounce style. Stalking tactics didn’t work as well in the Arc, thanks to the strong pace set by Ghaiyyath on very soft going at Longchamp. Magical took over from the faltering leader in the stretch, but could not last. Even Enable paid the price late when Waldgeist stormed past. It’s a testimony to Magical’s competitive spirit that she boxed on for fifth, while Ghaiyyath retreated to 10th.

Right back in action 13 days later on Champions Day, Magical asserted her superiority on the cutback to 1 1/4 miles in the Champion S. (G1) at Ascot and saw off class-climbing mudlark Addeybb. That was to be her springboard to the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita, but she spiked a fever and didn’t make the trip.

The Coolmore “lads” initially planned to retire her. A funny thing happened on the way to the breeding shed, so to speak, for Magical was doing so well physically that they relented and kept her in training for 2020.

O’Brien waxed enthusiastic about how much she’d changed as a 5-year-old, and the power she now had as a mature mare. Magical didn’t get the chance to test that hypothesis versus Enable this term, but she has added to her resume.

Sharp off the eight-month layoff in the June 28 Pretty Polly (G1), Magical bossed the field in front-running fashion. She left classy sophomore Cayenne Pepper (Filly & Mare Turf) and Fleeting well adrift in her only start of the season in distaff company. Back in her natural habitat versus males, Magical had a similarly straightforward journey when repeating in the Tattersalls Gold Cup, with eventual Cox Plate (G1) star Sir Dragonet in second.

Magical next crossed swords with a Ghaiyyath at the peak of his powers in the Aug. 19 Juddmonte International (G1). Although the Godolphin beast might have won anyway, Magical arguably conceded the race to him on a silver platter by being held up off his pace. Thus Ghaiyyath went on to another imperious victory as the controlling speed, and Magical was a workmanlike second from Lord North and Kameko (Mile).

A trip that made better use of her strengths in the Sept. 12 Irish Champion made for revenge upon Ghaiyyath. With the tactical maven Seamie Heffernan regaining the mount, Magical kept close tabs on Ghaiyyath, and he could feel her hovering presence. She took it to him turning for home, Ghaiyyath tried to raise his game in the stretch, but could not fend her off. Magical imposed her will tidily enough in the end, becoming only the second two-time Irish Champion winner after O’Brien’s Dylan Thomas (2006-07). Third-placer Armory has since placed in the Cox Plate, and fourth-placer Sottsass improved to win the Arc.

Magical was unsuccessful in her ensuing title defense in the Oct. 17 Champion at Ascot, where a less beneficial trip didn’t help. The eventual top two, old foe Addeybb and Skalleti, took up more forward positions while Magical was behind them. She didn’t have a clear path in upper stretch either, and once having room to unleash, she gained belatedly, but not enough on the bog to peg them back.

Interestingly, Magical has remained in the vicinity of 1 1/4 miles this season, and her reported Breeders’ Cup target a year ago was the Filly & Mare Turf. Thus the Turf will mark her first appearance at 1 1/2 miles since the 2019 Arc. Even if that trip is her upper limit in Europe, it’s not a concern over the less rigorous topography of Keeneland.

Neither is the ground. The one concern is tactics: she probably wouldn’t want to lag back, but secure a sensible early position.