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.”