Kentucky Derby Maiden Watch: Ari’s Magic sparkles on debut

January 8th, 2024

The first week of January produced a handful of noteworthy three-year-old maiden winners with possible Kentucky Derby (G1) aspirations.

On New Year’s Day, Resilience broke through in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight at Gulfstream Park. The son of five-time leading North American sire Into Mischief went 0-for-3 as a juvenile, but knocked heads with such high-profile runners as Breeders’ Futurity (G1) winner Locked, Jerome S. winner Drum Roll Please, and the multiple graded stakes-placed Stronghold.

Perhaps Resilience found the competition a bit easier at Gulfstream, or maybe he improved in his three-year-old debut. In any case, the Bill Mott trainee had no trouble prevailing in his fourth start, settling an average of 1 3/4 lengths behind fractions of :23.78, :47.50, and 1:11.65 before taking over in the stretch to dominate by 4 1/4 lengths in 1:43.98.

Goldbrick likewise went 0-for-3 as a juvenile, finishing fifth, second, and second against quality horses like Booth, Nash, and Carbone. But the son of two-time Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) winner Goldencents made his thee-year-old debut in a one-mile maiden special weight at Oaklawn Park last Friday and got the job done in hard-fought fashion for trainer Bret Calhoun.

Making his second start around two turns, Goldbrick rated in fifth place behind splits of :22.94 and :47.74 before advancing gradually to wear down the pacesetter and win by a neck in 1:39.07. It’s worth noting the runner-up pulled 8 1/2 lengths clear of the third-place finisher.

Meanwhile, Ari’s Magic had no difficulty winning his debut on Friday at Tampa Bay Downs. Favored at 9-10 to win a six-furlong maiden special weight, the Christophe Clement trainee settled 6 1/2 lengths behind an opening quarter-mile in :21.72, advanced to within three lengths of the lead through half a mile in :45.29, and then powered past the leaders in the homestretch to win by 4 1/2 lengths in 1:10.71.

Ari’s Magic’s debut is all the more exciting when you consider how he’s a son of Good Magic out of a mare by Pioneerof the Nile. Good Magic and Pioneerof the Nile have a lot in common: they both finished second in the Kentucky Derby, and both have sired Kentucky Derby winners. Good Magic is responsible for 2023 Derby hero Mage, while Pioneerof the Nile famously sired 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.

In short, Ari’s Magic is bred to shine over classic distances, suggesting this bay colt is well worth following as the winter progresses.