A brilliant performance by Mage at the 149th Kentucky Derby ended a disturbing and chaotic week at Churchill Downs on a high note. Two Phil's finished in the place position, with Angel of Empire showing for third. Mage finished in 2:01.57.
Early in the race, Reincarnate and Jace’s Road streaked out to the lead, with Kingsbarns and Verifying pushing through after a rapid quarter mile. On the home stretch, Two Phil’s briefly took the lead. Mage, which began the race deep in the pack, surged to a closing victory with a strong run from the outside.
Mage went off at 15-1 odds to win. The horse is owned by a fractional share consortium known as Commonwealth, which allows individual investors to buy in on horse ownership. A $2 exacta on the top horses paid $330.44, and a $1 trifecta on the top three paid $982.36. A $1 superfecta, including Disarm, paid $15,543.60.
Eighteen horses in all started the race. Angel of Empire had been the pre-race favorite, with odds at 7-2 shortly before post time. Tapit Trice followed at 9-2, with Derma Sotogake at 8-1 and Two Phil's at 9-1. The $3 million purse paid $1,860,000 to the winner, $600,000 to second place and $300,000 to third.
The race closed off an uncommonly chaotic and disturbing week at Churchill Downs. Seven horses died in the days and hours leading up to the Derby. Chloe's Dream, a 3-year-old gelding, was euthanized after sustaining an injury in one earlier race Saturday, and Freezing Point had to be destroyed following a left front foreleg injury suffered in the Pat Day Mile.
Wild on Ice and Take Charge Briana were destroyed after suffering catastrophic musculoskeletal injuries during training prior to Derby Day. Parents Pride and Chasing Artie, two horses under the eye of trainer Saffie Joseph, died earlier in the week, prompting Churchill Downs Inc. to suspend Joseph and remove his Derby entry, Lord Miles, from the race.
Two other horses, Verifying and And Tell Me Nolies, dumped their riders during prep week and briefly ran loose. Both horses were caught without further incident.
Six horses in all were scratched from the Derby, most notably pre-race favorite Forte. The 3-1 favorite was scratched just hours before the race, when a Kentucky Horse Racing Commission veterinarian inspected the horse following its Saturday morning workout. Skinner and Practical Move were scratched earlier in the week after exhibiting elevated temperatures following workouts. Continuar, one of three Japanese-trained horses in the field, was scratched after trainer Yoshito Yahagi did not believe the horse was physically ready for the rigors of the Derby.
The week was reminiscent of 2019, when 40 horses died over the course of the year at Santa Anita in California. That prompted a wave of safety concerns and regulations. The tragedies that loomed over this year's Derby could have a similar effect on a sport that has long drawn criticism for its record on safety.