Mage wins star-studded Kentucky Derby amid 7th death

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — After seven deaths raised questions about the future of horse racing, Mage picked up a surprising victory in the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, capping a harrowing day that included two more deaths before the 149th edition of the world’s most famous race.

Mage, a 15-1 shot, has picked up just one victory in three previous races, leaving little indication he could triumph against 17 rivals in a race that is not kind to the inexperienced .

Still, he made a brave stretch run, passing Two Phil’s on the inside and winning by a length. Mage, who didn’t run at age 2, ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:01.57.

The colt was in the capable hands of Javier Castellano, a Hall of Fame jockey who hasn’t been in such demand lately. Castellano, 45, had a 0-for-15 slip in the Derby.

“I never give up,” Castellano said. “I always try to do the right thing. It took me a little while to get there. I finally got it.”

Castellano and coach Gustavo Delgado are from Venezuela. Mage joined Canonero II as a Derby winner with Venezuelan links. Canonero II won the 1971 Derby and Preakness.

“Coming home he had a lot of heart,” Castellano said. “He’s a little horse with a big heart.”

Forte, the first favorite, was scratched in the morning with a bruised foot, one of five horses who retired as the race approached.

Mage paid $32.42, $14.58, and $9.08. The colt won $1,860,000 for the biggest win of his brief career.

Two Phil’s brought in $10.44 and $6.52.

Angel of Empire, the 4-1 favourite, finished third in front of a crowd of 150,335 on a hot, partly cloudy day at Churchill Downs. He paid $4.70 to show.

Earlier today, Chloe’s Dream, a 3-year-old gelding, and Freezing Point, a 3-year-old colt, were euthanized after being injured while racing, becoming the sixth and seventh horses to die on the track. The last days.

The string of horse deaths was on the minds of some Derby fans on a mostly cloudy and warm day.

“It’s worrying, and I hope they quickly do their best to correct what is happening,” said Michael Freeze, who, along with his friend, dressed up as jockeys. “They have to do whatever is best for the horses and the sport in general.”

Chloe’s Dream injured her right front knee, coach Jeff Hiles told The Associated Press.

“He just took a bad step there,” Hiles said. “They could do the same thing running on the field as on the track. So it’s very unfortunate. That’s what we’re dealing with.

Freezing Point suffered a left ankle injury on the Pat Day Mile, coach Joe Lejzerowicz told the AP.

“He just got hit in the backstretch,” Lejzerowicz said. “He never misstepped or bobbled. He had a big heart. »

New anti-doping rules and drugs enforced by a central sports governing body are set to come into force on May 22.

“There’s something going on,” said Pat Murtha, who was attending his first Derby. “They need to find out and make rules and regulations to protect these animals.”

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, two-time Triple Crown winner, is nearing the end of a two-year ban issued by Churchill Downs Inc. One of his horses, Medina Spirit, has crossed the line finish first in the 2021 Derby and failed a doping test after the race. The horse was disqualified and Baffert was punished.

In 2019, more than 30 horse deaths occurred at the Santa Anita Racetrack in California, shaking the industry and leading to safety reforms. Rick Dutrow, Kentucky Derby winning coach had his license revoked in 2011 for 10 years by New York officials. Regulators found syringes loaded with unauthorized drugs in an office in his barn. Dutrow reopened his stable last month.

Horse deaths included Derby competitor Wild On Ice. Two of the horses were trained by Saffie Joseph Jr. He was suspended indefinitely by the track, although investigators have yet to determine the cause of his horses’ deaths.

Four horses have been eliminated – Practical Move, Lord Miles, Continuar and Skinner – in recent days. Practical Move and Skinner had a fever, while Continuar was not in top form, according to his Japanese trainer. Lord Miles was Joseph’s Derby horse.

Disarm finished fourth, followed by Hit Show, Japan-based Derma Sotogake, Tapit Trice and Raise Cain, Rocket Can, Confidence Game, Sun Thunder, Japan’s Mandarin Hero, Reincarnate, Kingsbarns, King Russell, Verifying, Jace’s Road and Cyclone Mischief .

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AP Sports Writer Gary B. Graves and AP National Writer Claire Galofaro contributed to this report.

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