2023 Kentucky Derby winner Mage’s pedigree fun facts

Oct 23, 2023 Kellie Reilly/Brisnet.com

Kentucky Derby (G1) hero Mage is from the first crop of champion Good Magic, who was second to Justify in the 2018 Run for the Roses. And that’s just the beginning of his Derby-themed pedigree.

Good Magic’s sire, Hall of Famer Curlin, and maternal grandsire, Hard Spun, were rivals in the 2007 Derby. Hard Spun finished ahead of Curlin as they placed second and third, respectively.

When Mage tackled Two Phil’s in midstretch, it was a tussle of relatives. Two Phil’s is himself by Hard Spun, and thereby replicated his sire’s Derby runner-up effort.

This is the second straight year that a son of Curlin has sired a Derby winner in his first crop. Last year, it was Keen Ice who was responsible for the surprising Rich Strike.

Mage’s dam (mother) is by Big Brown, star of the 2008 Derby and Preakness (G1). Also in the maternal half of his ancestry is Summer Squall, second in the 1990 Derby but victorious in the Preakness.

Mage became the fourth Derby winner produced by his female line.

Now let’s take a deeper dive into Mage’s pedigree fun facts:
1. Good Magic was a champion two-year-old who made Breeders’ Cup history.

Good Magic had yet to win a race when he lined up in the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), but he broke his maiden with a decisive 4 1/4-length victory. In so doing, he became the first maiden to win at the Breeders’ Cup, and he clinched an Eclipse Award as champion two-year-old colt.

But Good Magic had shown plenty of talent in his first two starts. Runner-up in a 6 1/2-furlong sprint at Saratoga on debut, he missed by only a half-length in the Champagne (G1) around a one-turn mile. The Breeders’ Cup was his first opportunity to stretch out to two turns, and he promptly jumped up.

On the 2018 Triple Crown trail, Good Magic captured the Blue Grass (G2) before finding Justify too tough when second in the Derby and fourth in the Preakness. Good Magic skipped the Belmont (G1) and returned fresh to dominate the Haskell (G1).

2. Good Magic is the joint-youngest stallion to sire a Derby winner.

Currently eight years old, Good Magic has tied the record for the youngest sire of a Derby winner. He joins Triple Crown legend Gallant Fox, sire of fellow Triple Crown winner Omaha (1935); Pensive, who himself won the 1944 Derby and sired Ponder (1949); Royal Coinage, sire of Venetian Way (1960); Raise a Native, sire of Majestic Prince (1969); Maria’s Mon, sire of Monarchos (2001) (and later a second winner with Super Saver in 2010); Uncle Mo, sire of Nyquist (2016); and Bodemeister, the 2012 Derby runner-up who sired Always Dreaming (2017).

Good Magic’s outstanding first crop includes four winners of Road to the Kentucky Derby races, but Mage was not among them. Mage earned his way in via a terrific second in the Florida Derby (G1) in just his third career start. Three of Good Magic’s sons won points races as juveniles last fall – Blazing Sevens in the Champagne; Curly Jack in the Iroquois (G3); and Dubyuhnell in the Remsen (G2).

Reincarnate, who landed the Jan. 8 Sham (G3), ran in the Derby, chased the torrid pace, and tired to 13th. Blazing Sevens had sufficient points for the Derby, but connections preferred to point for the Preakness.

3. Grandsire Curlin won the Preakness in his Hall of Fame career and bankrolled $10.5 million.

By winning the Derby despite not racing as a two-year-old, Mage succeeded where paternal grandsire Curlin could not. Like Mage, Curlin began his career at three by running away with a seven-furlong maiden at Gulfstream Park. Unlike Mage, who competed in Florida preps, Curlin took the Oaklawn Park route and romped in the Rebel (G2) and Arkansas Derby (G2). After his third in the Kentucky Derby, Curlin gained revenge when winning the Preakness, and he was just outdueled by champion filly Rags to Riches in the Belmont.

Curlin improved with maturity, reigned as a two-time Horse of the Year, and ultimately made it into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. At the time of his retirement, Curlin was North America’s all-time richest horse with earnings of just over $10.5 million. His other major wins included the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1); back-to-back runnings of the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1); and the 2008 Dubai World Cup (G1), Stephen Foster (G1), and Woodward (G1).

4. Curlin made history by siring three Eclipse Awards winners of 2022.

Curlin has become a superb sire, getting 2013 Belmont winner Palace Malice in his first crop; Keen Ice, who famously stunned American Pharoah in the 2015 Travers (G1); Exaggerator, victor of the 2016 Preakness, Santa Anita Derby (G1), and Haskell; champion Vino Rosso, the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Classic hero; and current multiple Grade 1 stars Clairiere and Cody’s Wish, who just rolled in the Churchill Downs (G1) on Kentucky Derby Day.

But Curlin recently raised his historic stature even further: he is the only stallion to sire three champions in a single year in the Eclipse Awards era (since 1971). His daughter Nest was voted last year’s champion three-year-old filly; Elite Power was champion male sprinter; and Malathaat, the champion three-year-old filly of 2021, added another title as the champion older dirt female of 2022.


5. Hard Spun was a familiar rival of Curlin through the 2007 season.

Although Hard Spun defeated Curlin in the 2007 Kentucky Derby, he could not beat him again in the ensuing jewels of the Triple Crown. Hard Spun was third in the Preakness and fourth in the Belmont. When they renewed rivalry in the Haskell, Hard Spun turned the tables in second, with Curlin back in third. But Curlin won their final meeting in that fall’s Breeders’ Cup Classic at a sloppy Monmouth, where Hard Spun tried to go wire to wire and held second.

Hard Spun has compiled a successful career at stud himself. Aside from the top horses he’s sired (recounted in the pedigree fun facts on Two Phil’s), Hard Spun has sired the dams of several major winners.

Good Magic is out of Hard Spun’s daughter Glinda the Good, a Grade 2-placed multiple stakes scorer. Another big winner on Derby Day, Saturday’s American Turf (G2) upsetter Webslinger, was also produced by a Hard Spun mare. Other notables out of Hard Spun mares include multiple English Group 1 queen Alcohol Free, millionaire marathoner Lone Rock, smart turf performer Emmanuel, and 2020 Louisiana Derby (G2) scorer Wells Bayou.

6. Mage’s dam, Puca, beat Forte’s dam and also competed in the Kentucky Oaks.

Mage is out of Puca, who scored her stakes win in the 2017 Steve Pini Memorial S. on the Suffolk Downs turf. Finishing second was the accomplished Virginia-bred Queen Caroline, now best known as the dam of champion Forte. Their sons have extended the rivalry. Forte beat Mage in the Fountain of Youth (G2) and Florida Derby, but was scratched as the Kentucky Derby favorite. Will the improving Mage turn the tables the next time that he and Forte square off?

Puca was third to future champion Lady Eli in a turf maiden a Saratoga before switching to dirt. Attracting attention as a 16-length maiden winner on the main track at Belmont Park, Puca was pitched straight into the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at Santa Anita and wound up a troubled sixth. She persevered on the Kentucky Oaks (G1) trail in 2015, rallying for fourth in the Davona Dale (G2) and placing second in the Gazelle (G2). After a 12th in the Oaks, however, Puca spent most of her time on turf.

7. Puca’s sire, Big Brown, also won the Derby in just his fourth lifetime start.

Mage emulated Big Brown, not only by winning the Derby, but by doing so in his fourth start. Big Brown raced once at two, crushing a turf maiden at Saratoga by 11 1/4 lengths. Not seen again until the winter at Gulfstream, Big Brown romped by an even bigger margin in his first dirt try in an allowance. He made his stakes debut in the Florida Derby, rolling by five lengths to stamp himself as the Kentucky Derby favorite.

Big Brown continued his unbeaten sequence through the Derby and Preakness. From the far outside post 20 at Churchill Downs, he was much the best by 4 3/4 lengths, and he was similarly in another league in the Preakness. The Triple Crown appeared to be at his mercy, until he was pulled up in the Belmont. Big Brown rebounded to take the Haskell and beat older horses in the Monmouth S. in what turned to be his finale.

Big Brown had another brush with the Derby as a sire. His multiple Grade 1-winning son Dortmund brought a perfect record into the 2015 Run for the Roses, but placed third to stablemate American Pharoah.

8. Puca is a half-sister to turf millionaire Finnegans Wake.

Puca’s half-brother Finnegans Wake won or placed in a dozen stakes from 37 career starts. His bankroll of more than $1.5 million made him by far the top earner for their dam, Boat’s Ghost.
Finnegans Wake briefly tried the Derby trail himself, but after a distant third in the 2012 Gotham (G3) and a 10th in the Louisiana Derby, he found his home on turf. His signature win came on the 2015 Derby undercard in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1). He garnered four more graded stakes, including three straight in the Hollywood Turf Cup (G2), San Gabriel (G2), and San Marcos (G2). Among his seven stakes placings were the 2012 Secretariat (G1) and Virginia Derby (G2) and the 2015 Eddie Read (G1).


9.Mage is inbred to supersires Mr. Prospector and Danzig.

Mage’s pedigree sports a fascinating pattern. His parents are bred on a “reverse cross,” i.e., a mirror image of each other.

Good Magic is by a Mr. Prospector-line sire and out of a Danzig-line mare. Puca is precisely the opposite, since sire Big Brown hails from the male line of Danzig, and her dam is by the Mr. Prospector stallion Silver Ghost.

As a result, Mage has duplications of both “Mr. P” and Danzig. Each stallion appears twice in the fourth generation, so he’s inbred 4×4 to Mr. P and to Danzig.

10. Ancestor Silver Ghost is out of a high-class racemare who placed to Genuine Risk.

Silver Ghost’s dam, Grade 2 vixen Misty Gallore, won eight stakes and placed in four others while mixing it up with some famous names. Most notably, she missed by a nose in the 1980 Ruffian H. (G1) to Hall of Famer Genuine Risk, who beat the boys in that year’s Kentucky Derby. Misty Gallore defeated the likes of champion It’s in the Air and Blitey, and also played second fiddle to such greats as Davona Dale and Glorious Song.

Silver Ghost, who came from the deep family that would produce Horses of the Year Gun Runner and Saint Liam, sired Grade 1-winning fillies Dreams Gallore, Love Lock, and Lunar Spook. He is also the damsire of Roadster, the 2019 Santa Anita Derby hero.

11. Ancestor Summer Squall won the Preakness and sired Charismatic.

Boat’s Ghost is out of a mare by Summer Squall, perhaps best remembered for trading decisions with Unbridled in the first two jewels of the 1990 Triple Crown. Runner-up in the Derby, Summer Squall turned the tables on Unbridled in the Preakness. But Summer Squall had also gone unbeaten as a juvenile, capping his 1989 campaign in the Hopeful (G1).

Summer Squall is an older half-brother of Hall of Famer A.P. Indy. Both are out of the multiple Grade 3-winning Weekend Surprise, a royally-bred daughter of Secretariat who was honored as 1992 Broodmare of the Year. Summer Squall is by one of Northern Dancer’s European stars, Storm Bird, an undefeated champion two-year-old in England and Ireland.

At stud, Summer Squall sired Horse of the Year Charismatic, the 1999 Derby and Preakness winner; champion filly Storm Song; Grade 1-winning millionaire Summer Colony; and Summerly, heroine of the 2005 Kentucky Oaks. Summer Squall is the broodmare sire of champion Summer Bird, who turned the Belmont/Travers (G1) double in 2009.

12. Mage descends from the same family as Derby-winning Hall of Famer Twenty Grand.

Mage’s sixth dam in the female line (i.e., his great-granddam’s great-granddam), Castle Ridge, is by Hall of Famer Riva Ridge, the 1972 Derby and Belmont victor.

Further back, Castle Ridge comes from the same family as Quill. The champion two-year-old filly of 1958, Quill became a celebrated broodmare by producing One for All, Caucasus, and Last Feather, and her further descendants include Run the Gantlet.

Castle Ridge traces to Quill’s dam, Quick Touch, by 1943 Triple Crown legend Count Fleet. Quick Touch is out of Alms, winner of the 1939 Pimlico Oaks (the race now known as the Black-Eyed Susan) and runner-up versus males in the Louisiana Derby.

Alms is herself a three-quarter sister to Hall of Famer Twenty Grand, who swept the Derby, Belmont, Travers, and Jockey Club Gold Cup among his marquee wins in 1931.

This maternal clan, labeled 5-g, is also responsible for a pair of Derby winners at the dawn of the 20th century, Elwood (1904) and Sir Huon (1906). The ancestress they all have in common is Lady Lumley, a British import foaled in 1872.

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