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KENTUCKY DERBY

Post position, Horse, Odds

1. Firenze Fire 50-1

2. Free Drop 30-1

3. Promises Fulfilled 30-1

4. Flameway 30-1

5. Audible 8-1

6. Good Magic 12-1

7. Justify 3-1

8. Lone Sailor 50-1

9. Hofburg 20-1

10. My Boy Jack 30-1

11. Bolt d’Oro 8-1

12. Enticed 30-1

13. Bravazo 50-1

14. Mendelssohn 5-1

15. Instilled Regard 50-1

16. Magnum Moon 6-1

17. Solomini 30-1

18. Vino Rosso 12-1

19. Noble Indy 30-1

20. Combatant 50-1

AE. Blended Citizen 50-1

Barbara Banke hopes the third time’s a charm.

Banke, chairwoman of Jackson Family Wines and owner of Stonestreet Farms, is making her third trip to Churchill Downs Saturday, this time as co-owner of Good Magic, one of a handful of horses generating outsized excitement in the 144th annual Run for the Roses.

“I think there is plenty of magic with Good Magic,” she said.

Still, the Kentucky Derby, dubbed the most exciting two minutes in sports, can bring even the highest hopes crashing down. And the 2018 field is being touted as the one of the tightest and most competitive in years.

Banke, 64, has been denied at Churchill Downs before.

With her late husband Jess Jackson, she brought the mighty Curlin — a two-time horse of the year — to race at Churchill Downs in 2007. They came away disappointed.

“My first time (at the Kentucky Derby) was with Curlin, who really should have won. He was one of the best horses of the year, but he ran into traffic trouble,” she said.

But she likes the look of Good Magic and she likes the way he’s running. She’s not alone.

After post positions were announced, oddsmakers put Good Magic as a 12-1 favorite behind Justify (3-1), Mendelssohn (5-0), Magnum Moon (6-1), Bolt d’Oro (8-1) and Audible (8-1). But that can change right up to race time.

On Friday, Melissa Happert, the New York Times’ award-winning reporter and creator of the newspaper’s horse racing blog, announced that Good Magic was her favorite. Fellow reporter Joe Drape picked Bolt d’Oro but wrote that there is plenty to like about Good Magic: “There’s too much chatter about how good last year’s two-year-old champion is looking. Those juicy odds may drop precipitously.”

So forgive Banke if she sounds confident.

“His resume is pretty good,” Banke said of the five races under Good Magic’s belt. “Some of the horses that will be there, it’s their fourth start. It does give him an advantage.

“We are really happy where he is right now.”

Good Magic won the Eclipse Award for two-year-olds after winning the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile. And after winning the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland March 7, vaulting him into contention.

In the world of horse racing, in which bloodlines and family ties are the markers of greatness, Good Magic has a special place in Banke’s racing history.

The three-year-old is the son of Curlin, the vaunted horse upon whom Banke and Jackson rode to prominence in the horse racing world.

Curlin’s emergence as a dominant racer of his time thrust Jackson and Banke’s Stonestreet Farms operation into the racing limelight.

When Stonestreet’s filly, Rachel Alexandra, became the first filly to win the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico in 85 years en route to being named Horse of the Year in 2009, Stonestreet and Banke’s places in the upper echelon of racing were set.

Stonestreet’s Curlin is father to not only Good Magic, but two of Good Magic’s competitors at the Derby — Vino Rossi and Solomini, who is trained by the famed Bob Baffert.

“Curlin is one of the leading sires in America and is known for producing triple crown-type horses,” Banke said. “He is definitely the type of sire that gets a Kentucky Derby horse and this year we have three.”

Banke, a former land-use and constitutional law attorney who has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, said that her interest in horses wasn’t immediate.

For many years, she left Jackson to his passion. It wasn’t until her husband of more than 25 years fell ill that she turned her attention — at least part of it — from running Jackson Family Wines to overseeing the growing Stonestreet operation.

“Jess, in about 2003, needed something else to do with his time rather than just doing the wine industry,” she said. “He had been in the horse business with his uncle many years before.”

From there, it was, “I’m going to buy a racehorse,” she said.

“I was not involved initially at all,” she said. “When he became ill, I become more involved.”

And as a competitor by nature, Banke is now all in.

Running Jackson Family Wines is her full-time gig, but horses — racing, training and breeding — now take up “20-25 percent of my time.”

In recent years, Banke has grown the Kentucky-based Stonestreet operation to include 1,700 acres in Florida, 350 of which are a training and rehabilitation center near Ocala.

Stonestreet also includes a breeding division in Kentucky.

Not many in the horse racing world have branched out into training as well as breeding, she said.

Stonestreet had been using the Ocala facility for years and when it came up for sale, Banke grabbed it.

“I was worried about someone buying it and privatizing it,” she said.

“It gives us a big advantage,” she said. “We generally know a little bit more about them than you usually do.”

Which may be why, when Stonestreet brought Good Magic to market in 2016, Banke retained 50 percent ownership. There was something about this horse.

“He was one of our best yearlings,” she said of his looks, lineage and temperament. “And the fact that he had great confirmation, which means he looked like a race horse. He was made the right way. I didn’t want to sell all of him. I took him to the sale, but was looking for someone to partner with.”

Banke found partners in e Five Racing, whose co-owner Bob Edwards founded Boca Pharmacal and e5 Pharma.

“It’s their third year of racing and they are already at the Kentucky Derby,” she said.

Although her horse is a legitimate contender, Banke sounded determined to enjoy the spectacle that is the Kentucky Derby.

“To start with, it’s a big social scene,” she said. “Everyone gets dressed up with their spring attire, the women have fantastic hats. The men as well.

“It’s really fun,” she said. “It’s see and be seen.”

The menu will likely include southern staples like bread pudding with bourbon, ham, biscuits and black-eyed peas. And Kentucky bourbon will flow. Just not as heavily at Banke’s table.

“There is a lot of bourbon drinking,” she said. “At my table, there is a lot of California and Oregon wine consumption as well.”

Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay and Stonestreet Estate Cabernet, to be exact.

A day that will be made all the better for Banke if Good Magic can pull off a little magic.

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 707-526-8671 or kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com, on Twitter @benefield and on Instagram at kerry.benefield. Podcasting on iTunes and SoundCloud, “Overtime with Kerry Benefield.”

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