‘Relaxed’ after Kentucky Derby win, will Preakness be next for Mage?

A thunderstorm passed over Churchill Downs on Sunday morning, but nothing was going to stop the celebration at Barn 42.

Mage walked the shedrow, covered in a blanket proclaiming him “Kentucky Derby 149 winner.” He had spent Saturday evening munching on carrots and peppermints and awakened Sunday morning to dozens of photographers wanting to take his picture.

While eating hay in Stall 10 − the same stall that housed 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro − Churchill Downs officials presented the traditional garland of roses to Mage’s connections.

This is the life of a Kentucky Derby champion.

‘Minutes later, he was so relaxed,’ groom Moises Morales said of the moments after the victory. ‘He ate good. He came out of it so easy. I couldn’t believe it. Kids, you know? He’s still a kid. … He’s a spoiled little thing.’

The kid was a man among boys Saturday, rallying from the back of the pack for a one-length victory over Two Phil’s in front of 150,335 fans at Churchill Downs.

Mage was the runner-up to Forte in the Florida Derby on April 1 and had created little buzz − compared to most − heading into the Kentucky Derby.

He went to post Saturday at 15-1 odds.

‘I wasn’t expecting for him to be the star before the race,’ assistant trainer Gustavo Delgado Jr. said. ‘But we were all confident that he had a really nice race behind him.’

Morales said he watched the post parade on TV and was confident Mage was going to run a big race.

‘He was feeling good, strong like a little bull,’ Morales said. ‘I saw him galloping and warming up and said, ‘Oh, my gosh. He wants to do it.’’

Ramiro Restrepo said the post-race celebration was held at Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse. Restrepo is part of an ownership contingent that also includes OMGA Investments (led by Gustavo Delgado Sr.), Sterling Racing (led by Sam Herzberg) and CMNWLTH (led by Brian Doxtator and Chase Chamberlin).

Restrepo said he spent part of the evening responding to nearly 1,200 text messages on his phone.

‘Told a lot of stories, a lot of hugs and kisses,’ he said. ‘Just enjoying the moment, man. This comes along once in a lifetime, if at all. The fact we could all get together and enjoy it and spend some time − basking in the glow of time, effort and dedication − you have to take it all in.’

Delgado Sr. said Mage checked out fine with veterinarians Sunday morning. Mage will get a couple days rest and could head back to the Churchill Downs track for training Tuesday morning.

Connections wouldn’t commit to entering Mage in the second leg of the Triple Crown − the May 20 Preakness at Pimlico in Baltimore − but they’re certainly considering it.

‘Obviously, you know that’s a dream in the background,’ Restrepo said. ‘But in the end, end, end, Mage has to want the Triple Crown. If he comes out of the race as he appears to us here, then I know (Delgado Sr.) is going to want to go to the Preakness and all of the partners are going to want to go, too. But it’s never going to be at the expense of the horse.

‘If my guy is feeling the way he’s feeling, then on to Baltimore and crab cakes we go.’

Whatever happens next, Restrepo and his partners will always have the memories from the first Saturday in May, 2023.

‘This is a game that you lose way more than you win,’ Restrepo said. ‘It’s a labor of love, and you’re just dream chasing. It’s come through for all of us. … This is the top of the mountain for many, many people in the sporting realm. Everyone knows the Kentucky Derby around the world.’

Jason Frakes: 502-582-4046; jfrakes@courier-journal.com; Twitter: @KentuckyDerbyCJ.

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