Thoroughbred Makeover Diary: A Look Back and a Love Story

Magoo with his best buddy, Mushu the goat. (Courtesy of Erin O’Keefe)

Maintaining Magoo’s eligibility for the 2021 Thoroughbred Makeover through the fall is turning out to be a little harder than I had expected — we cannot go over 15 retraining rides prior to Dec. 1. With him feeling his best again, he continually reminds me how trainable he is, and I am getting extremely excited to get him started on the path to his second career.

Thankfully, fall in the Central Kentucky Thoroughbred industry is busy. While at the sales, I have been having fun keeping an eye on Magoo’s former competition.

A Look Back

Back when the world knew him only as Denman’s Call, Magoo was a highly-regarded young racehorse and was even on the Derby Trail for a while. In his very first start, he won a maiden special weight race in which the runner-up was a horse named Cupid, who went on to break his maiden next out, then promptly won the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes. He later went on to win the Grade 2 Indiana Derby, Grade 2 West Virginia Derby, and Grade 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita. He now stands at stud for $10,000 at Ashford Stud, and his first foals are yearlings this year and have sold for up to $200,000.

Denman's Call winning Triple Bend. (Eclipse Sportswire)

With his early show of talent, Magoo was on the Derby Trail, until it was apparently decided that his optimal distance was a little shorter. In winning the Grade 1 Triple Bend Stakes at Santa Anita, he beat an accomplished field including four other graded stakes winners. While shipping across the country and competing at the highest level, Magoo failed to score again at this level but he still crossed the finish line ahead of some impressive horses:

  • El Kabeir, standing at Yeomanstown Stud, winner of the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club, Grade 3 Jerome, and Grade 3 Gotham Stakes, second in the Grade 3 Withers Stakes, and third in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial Stakes.
  • Mohaymen, standing at stud at Shadwell Farm for $7,500, winner of the Grade 2 Nashua, Grade 2 Remsen, Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes, and Grade 2 Xpressbet Fountain of Youth Stakes.
  • Drefong, standing at stud at Shadai Stallion Station, winner of the Grade 1 Ketel One King’s Bishop Stakes, Grade 1 TwinSpires Breeder’s Cup Sprint, and Grade 1 Forego Stakes.

Magoo also had the “honor” of losing to some of the best horses of his foal crop. In the Grade 2 San Vincente, Magoo picked up his first black type, finishing third. Winning that race was Nyquist, who went on to win that year’s Kentucky Derby amongst multiple other graded stakes races. He will stand for $75,000 in 2021 at Darley, as his fee increased from $40,000 with his first crop of 2-year olds achieving quick success on the racetrack. Finishing second in that race was that year’s Preakness winner Exaggerator, another multiple Grade 1 winner with first crop 2-year olds. Standing for $20,000 at WinStar Farm, he is one of the leading freshman sires by winners at this point in the year. In the Santa Anita Derby, Magoo finished behind Exaggerator again, Mor Spirit (standing at Spendthrift), Uncle Lino (standing at Northview Stallion Station), and Danzing Candy (standing at Rancho San Miguel).

With the illustrious company he once kept, who knows how different his second career would look if he hadn’t been gelded before he raced. I wonder what baby Magoos would have been like, but selfishly I am thankful he’s mine instead.

Mushu and Magoo: A Love Story

Magoo and Mushu playing together. (Courtesy of Erin O’Keefe)

Magoo has been the odd man out since being officially retargeted for the 2021 Makeover, and spends most of his time outside. He is turned out with Phantom (my other prospect) and Bayou (another OTTB). Both of the other geldings are 17+ hands tall, bay, and rowdy. While Magoo occasionally enjoys roughhousing with them, he does not find the same joy that they do in playing “bitey face” and tends to hang back.

Lately, a new and unconventional friendship has emerged. Mushu, our 54-pound rescue goat, also hangs out with the boys. Though he likes to roughhouse as well, he is not quite up to the heavyweight division. And so, Mushu and Magoo have made their own games. They graze together all day, occasionally pausing for a little head butting and horn biting. In the morning, when Magoo comes inside to eat, Mushu SCREAMS until he returns to the field (take note: Mushu can come into the barn whenever he wants, and instead chooses to stand in the field angry).

Once reunited, they resume play until they venture to the back of the field for another day of grazing and shenanigans. Every evening, they all come running in together for dinner, and Mushu heads to bed (in a stall) for the night. Though many trainers keep goats in their barn, Doug O’Neill, with whom Magoo spent most of his career, did not. I’m not entirely sure who initiated their unconventional friendship, or if Mushu even realizes he isn’t an OTTB like his “brothers.” All I really know is that they keep me entertained as I count down the days to Dec. 1.

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