Close your eyes for a minute, ignore the weather, and it could have been Feb. 17 all over again.
On that day, Justify was an unraced 3-year-old, 24 hours away from his career debut, and 2-year-old champion Good Magic was considered the division's heavyweight champion and the leading contender for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve.
Now, look at the world as sunset approached on the New Jersey shore, with Good Magic circling outside the winner's circle July 29 at Monmouth Park, waiting to be saluted as a decisive winner of the $1 million Betfair.com Haskell Invitational Stakes.
With Triple Crown winner Justify retired and bound for a life at stud, it was Good Magic who once again vaulted to the top of 3-year-old crop in the eyes of trainer Chad Brown with several other million dollar races on the horizon awaiting the son of Curlin.
"With Justify out, this horse is on top of the division. I think everyone would agree with that," Brown said. "He's still standing. He's a tough horse and I'm so proud of him. This horse trains on. He's a great racehorse and someday he'll make a great stallion."
Owned by Barbara Banke's Stonestreet Stables and Bob Edwards' e Five Racing Thoroughbreds, Good Magic's three-length victory over Preakness Stakes runner-up Bravazo in the 51st Haskell certainly left little doubt that he has weathered a runner-up finish in the Kentucky Derby behind Justify and a fourth-place finish in the Preakness after battling with the Triple Crown winner in the early stages.
Considering how comfortably he won the Haskell under jockey Jose Ortiz, the 2017 Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner might even be better than ever.
"The horse needed the time off (after the Preakness)," said Brown, who trained Good Magic up to the Haskell after the homebred's one-length loss in the May 19 classic at Pimlico. "I'm surprised that he ran hard on those tracks (in the Derby and Preakness) and still ran like this today. He's like his father. He's made of steel.
"I feel this horse is ready for another good form cycle," he added. "He ran a great race today and I think he might have had a little more in the tank when he crossed the wire. This horse looks for competition and he couldn't find any."
That extra bit of speed and stamina will definitely come in handy next time as the $1.25 million Travers Stakes at 1 ¼ miles Aug. 25 at Saratoga Race Course looms as the next start for Good Magic. Brown warned that if the Kentucky-bred comes out of the Haskell needing more time, the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby Sept. 22 at Parx Racing would be in the mix. But there's now another race in Brown's long-range plan as the Haskell was a Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Breeders' Cup Classic, giving Good Magic an all-expenses paid spot in the $6 million race Nov. 3 at Churchill Downs.
"Having run a great race at Churchill Downs at a mile-and-a-quarter (in the Derby), you would have to think that's a target for him," said Brown, who along with Ortiz had four winners on the 14-race Monmouth card. "I'm very comfortable with his race over that track. Hopefully he stays healthy and everything goes right and we'll run him."
Banke picked up her second win in the Haskell as Good Magic joined 2009 winner Rachel Alexandra, and felt a great sense of pride over breeding him.
"Curlin brings out the best in his offspring," she said. "The heart, the sturdiness, a quick turn of foot. Having the mare and sire, we're very proud of him, and you couldn't ask for nicer and luckier partner."
Good Magic chased the pace of the longshot Roaming Union through the opening half-mile. He surged to the front at the quarter pole and quickly kicked clear to a four-length lead at the eighth pole as Bravazo moved into second but was no threat to the winner.
The 1-2 favorite, Good Magic covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.01. It was his third win in eight starts and pushed his earnings to $2.945 million.
It also gave Brown a sentimental win at a track with special meaning for him.
"I took my trainer's test here after the 2007 Breeders' Cup," he said. "This is one of the tracks I got started at and a race near the top of the list of the ones I wanted to win. We ran two horses here last year, one of them the favorite (Timeline), and came away empty, so to win today is special."
Bravazo, one of three horses in the field of seven at odds approximating 5-1, had six lengths on third-place finisher Lone Sailor.
Core Beliefs, Golden Brown, Roaming Union, and Navy Commander rounded out the order of finish.
Attendance was 37,189 and the all-sources handle was announced as $13,395,279. Both figures represented a 5 percent increase over 2017.