Come January, Chad Brown could find himself as the first trainer in 14 years to accomplish one feat and the first ever to pull off another.
It’s all possible because of Brown’s rather extraordinary success with his current crop of juveniles.
In Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile victor Good Magic and undefeated Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Rushing Fall, the 38-year-old Brown has a pair of prime contenders for an Eclipse Award in their respective 2-year-old divisions. Should both get a nod of approval from voters, it would make him the first trainer since Richard Mandella in 2003 (Action This Day, Halfbridled) to take home the prize for both champion 2-year-old male and female.
“I feel both horses are very deserving of being honored with an Eclipse Award,” said Brown, who collected the first Eclipse Award of his own as outstanding trainer last year and could repeat this season. “Good Magic has always trained like he was an exceptional horse and he showed that with a dominant victory in the Juvenile. In Rushing Fall, we have a brilliant filly who is undefeated and has beaten international competition. Both of them have very impressive credentials.”
Good Magic, owned by a partnership of Bob Edwards’ e Five Racing Thoroughbreds and Stonestreet Stables, would seem to have the better and more conventional chance of the two. The Kentucky-bred son of Curlin entered the Breeders’ Cup as a maiden after finishing second in a maiden event at Saratoga Race Course, as well as in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes in his two prior starts. He traveled 3,000 miles from his New York base to Del Mar to face a field that included 7-10 favorite Bolt d’Oro, who owned a pair of wins at the Southern California track.
Bred by Stonestreet and purchased for $1 million from Hill ‘n’ Dale Sales Agency’s consignment to the 2016 Keeneland September sale, Good Magic thrived in the new surroundings. The son of the graded stakes-placed Hard Spun mare Glinda the Good registered a convincing 4 1/4-length victory in a race won by 17 of the last 21 2-year-old male champions, while Bolt d’Oro was 5 1/4 lengths back in third.
“Good Magic is the one who traveled to Bolt d’Oro’s track and beat him decisively. That says a lot for a 2-year-old and it should be enough to establish who the champion is,” Brown said. “For me to take a maiden and run him in two grade 1 races, especially a Breeders’ Cup race, is out of character for me. I could have gotten a lot of egg on my face, but it shows what we thought about this horse from day one.”
Rushing Fall, a daughter of More Than Ready owned by Edwards, was purchased for $320,000 from Taylor Made Sales Agency at the 2016 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale of selected yearlings. She has a better record than her e Five stablemate, but all three of her wins, two of them graded stakes, came on turf — and a 2-year-old champion has never raced exclusively on turf. With Caledonia Road winning the 14 Hands Winery Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at 17-1 odds for her lone stakes win in three starts, Brown is hopeful that Rushing Fall’s impressive wins at the World Championships against U.S. and European rivals and the Grade 3 JPMorgan Chase Jessamine Stakes at Keeneland will sway a majority of Eclipse voters in her favor.
"The day will come when one of these 2-year-olds, probably a filly, will buck history and become a 2-year-old champion while racing only on turf," said Brown, who teamed with Edwards to win the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf with New Money Honey. “Lady Eli was second [in the 2014 voting]. But this year, with the way things have unfolded with the dirt horses, I think Rushing Fall is deserving with a flawless record. She’s not only undefeated but she has showed a lot of brilliance. She won both stakes appearances impressively.”
As enviable as Brown’s hand may be with Good Magic and Rushing Fall, his star-studded class of 2-year-olds does not end there. After an eye-opening maiden win, William H. Lawrence’s Analyze It was shipped to Del Mar for the Grade 3 Cecil B. DeMille Stakes on Nov. 26 and pulled away in the stretch to record a sparkling 4 1/4-length victory.
“Chad won two Breeders’ Cup juvenile races and it could have been three if we had gotten Analyze It ready for the races a little earlier. In both of his starts, he got significantly better figures than the Breeders’ Cup [Juvenile Turf] winner [Mendelssohn],” Lawrence said. “He didn’t start until [Oct. 28] but you can’t push them until they are ready. I was nervous before the DeMille because I wasn’t sure if he could back up the first race. But I’m happy we did it, because when you can ship across the country and win easily, it’s very encouraging.”
While what happens in the Eclipse Award voting is out of their hands, of a more pressing nature for Brown and his owners is mapping out 3-year-old campaigns for his juvenile stars.
The path for Rushing Fall is rather straightforward. Brown expects her to make her 3-year-old debut in the Grade 3 Appalachian Stakes Presented by Japan Racing Association at Keeneland, with the $1-million, Grade 1 Belmont Oaks Invitational Stakes on July 4th weekend at Belmont Park as her main target.
Brown has a framework in place for Good Magic’s path to the Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve, but may not finalize the details for a few months. Both Brown and Edwards said the Curlin colt will get two prep races before the first Saturday in May, though it is “unlikely” both will be in Florida, even though the colt is expected to join Brown’s Florida stable “around Christmas time.”
“It’s highly unlikely Good Magic will run two races in Florida,” Edwards said. “Gulfstream is a demanding track and Chad’s not a big fan of running multiple races in Florida. There will be a discussion with [Stonestreet owner Barbara Banke], but we trust Chad to do what he does best. He’s still the best turf trainer in the country but now he’s outperforming most guys on dirt and that makes him scary good.”
According to Brown, “there will be two preps, but I won’t say where to leave myself the option of running twice at Gulfstream, but that’s probably unlikely.”
That scenario opens the door for Good Magic to use either the Grade 2 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland or the Grade 2 Wood Memorial Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets at Aqueduct as a springboard to Churchill Downs, even if neither race has Grade 1 status.
“I’d consider the Wood or Blue Grass,” Brown said. “One thing I can say for sure is that I’m not basing his preparation for the Derby on the grade of the races. He’s already a Grade 1 winner and the big prize is the Kentucky Derby. I want to get him to the Derby ready to run the race of his life on Derby day. My concern is which bridge to use to have him ready to run his best figure.”
Analyze It is targeting the $1.25-million, Grade 1 Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes in July, but Lawrence said there’s a chance the colt might be tested on dirt to find out if the Triple Crown is a viable option.
“We haven’t completely ruled out running on dirt. You have time between now and July and with a good turf horse at this time of year you’re all dressed up with nowhere to go,” he said. “He hasn’t shown as much promise on dirt in training, but I’d like to figure that out before May rather than after it. We’re not going to push him, but you never know. He’s still growing so we’ll talk about it and see. He’s probably the most promising 2-year-old on turf I’ve seen in years and you don’t want to do anything to get him hurt.”
Brown said he has yet to see signs that Analyze It can make a smooth transition from turf to the main track.
“I’m not sure about running him on dirt,” he said. “So far, he hasn’t given me the feel that he’ll be as effective on the dirt, but I’ll investigate it more in his works. He will really have to show me in his works that he’ll be equally good on dirt or I won’t do it. I don’t want to hamper his development and potentially get him injured if we’re wrong. As of now, the Belmont Derby is the main target.”
For all involved, those are surely exciting options and possibilities at this time of year and a fitting reward for well-orchestrated juvenile campaigns on diverse surfaces.
“Chad’s system is firing on all cylinders. He has a phenomenal staff with a low turnover and in any business, it’s all about your team. He’s stacked across the board,” Edwards said. “I think this year he made a more conscious effort to get his 2-year-olds to the track and you see the results. Chad usually takes his time and doesn’t want to push his horses and hurt them. The horse will tell him when he’s ready and you have to respect that. You have to trust your trainer. As an owner, you can’t pull an assistant trainer’s card out of your pocket. At the end of the day, Chad spends more time with the horse than the owners and you have to listen to him.”
Lawrence agreed that patience has been a virtue for the 2016 Eclipse Award-winning trainer.
“I think it’s his patience that makes Chad successful,” said Lawrence, co-owner with Seth Klarman of Brown’s 2017 Preakness Stakes winner Cloud Computing, a colt who made his career debut at 3.
“A lot of owners bully their trainers and say they want to see their horses at Saratoga. In his case, if someone says they want to run the horse early, Chad says, ‘Take it to another trainer.’ Too many things can go wrong. The big horses at the Breeders’ Cup were not running in May and June. Those that run early don’t hang around, and that’s something the industry has to figure out. We used to run a lot of 2-year-olds in May and June and then they would be broken down by the next May or June.”
Brown, for his part, appreciates the confidence owners express when they allow to him to move at a slower pace with their valuable Thoroughbreds.
“Working with great horses, you need patient owners who trust you and trust the feedback you’re giving them and buy into your plan for that horse. Right now, we have that with a large group of clients,” Brown said. “It’s nice to be able to have not only good 2-year-olds, but to have good ones on both surfaces and both genders. It speaks volumes for the quality of [horses] we have to work with and also the talents of my staff to bring along different types of horses and to identify their niches and develop them and get them to where they are supposed to be. With young horses, it’s a matter of knowing of when to stop or go. You have to know where the gas and the brakes are so you don’t hurt them physically or mentally and spoil their long-term development.”