Five years ago, Justify , Good Magic , and Bolt d'Oro left their mark on the 2018 Kentucky Derby (G1) trail, with all three winning graded stakes to qualify for the Run for the Roses before Justify became the 13th winner of the Triple Crown by capturing the Derby, Preakness Stakes (G1), and Belmont Stakes (G1).
Now their progeny are shining in the lead-up to the 2023 classics. The three second-crop stallions are represented by five of the 12 top-ranked 3-year-olds in BloodHorse's Derby Dozen.
Good Magic, the champion 2-year-old male of 2017 who finished second to Justify in the 2018 Derby, is the sire of Blazing Sevens (the seventh-ranked 3-year-old), Curly Jack (10th), and Reincarnate (12th), while Bolt d'Oro's Instant Coffee is in third place in the 'Dozen' and Justify's Verifying is in fifth.
2023 will not mark the first time their progeny have duked things out. Last year when their first crop raced, Bolt d'Oro, Good Magic, and Justify finished 1-2-3 by Northern Hemisphere progeny earnings at year's end. Less than $400,000 separated first-place Bolt d'Oro ($2,748,980) from third-place Justify ($2,349,984). Good Magic finished at $2,533,214.
Their progeny have the potential to bank even more dollars in stakes this year, with tracks, as usual, offering rich purses on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. The upcoming Feb. 18 Risen Star Stakes (G2) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots is worth $400,000—Curly Jack is one of the favorites there—and down the line, the New Orleans track will host the March 25 Louisiana Derby (G2) for $1 million.
Bolt d'Oro's Instant Coffee, owned by Gold Square and trained by Brad Cox, is considered a leading candidate for the Louisiana Derby after winning the Lecomte Stakes (G3) at Fair Grounds earlier this year.
Other Derby preps worth $1 million or more in the coming months include the Feb. 25 Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park, the April 1 Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park, the April 1 Arkansas Derby (G1), and the April 8 Blue Grass Stakes (G1) at Keeneland. The Arkansas Derby is the richest of those at $1.25 million.
Justify's Verifying, a half brother to champion Midnight Bisou, is a likely Rebel starter for Cox after capturing an allowance optional claiming race at Oaklawn earlier this year. Last year at 2, he placed in the Champagne Stakes (G1) behind Blazing Sevens for the Coolmore-affliated ownership of Westerberg, Mrs. John Magnier, Jonathan Poulin, Derrick Smith, and Michael Tabor.
Good Magic's Curly Jack, a troubled second last out in the Nov. 26 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs for owner Michael McLoughlin, makes his first start of 2023 in the 1 1/8-mile Risen Star.
"He's prepared very well and I'm excited about running him this weekend," trainer Tom Amoss said. "It's his 3-year-old debut, and big fields usually translate into traffic issues for horses off the pace and he's one of those. I don't want to make it sound like we would not love to win this race because we would. A big effort and taking into account what may or may not occur in the race is what we're looking for from Curly Jack."
Last year the Good Magic colt made $417,580, topped by a win in the Iroquois Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs, to rank among the leading money earners for his sire, who stands this year for $50,000 at Hill 'n' Dale Farms at Xalapa in Kentucky.
Besides 2022 Champagne winner Blazing Sevens and Sham Stakes (G3) winner Reincarnate, other 3-year-olds on the Derby trail for the stallion include 2022 Remsen Stakes (G2) winner Dubyuhnell, and promising debut winner Mage , who sped seven furlongs in 1:22.54 in winning a maiden special weight at Gulfstream Park Jan. 28.
In addition to Verifying, other leading 3-year-olds nominated to the Triple Crown by Justify include Harlocap, who runs in the Risen Star after a maiden victory at Santa Anita Park Jan. 22, and Yuttitham, a commanding winner of two of three starts in Japan. Justify stands for $100,000 this year at Coolmore's Ashford Stud, where his farmmates include the long-established Uncle Mo , sire of the flashy Arabian Knight, the second-ranked Derby Dozen horse.
Spendthrift Farm, where Bolt d'Oro commands a fee of $35,000, also campaigns his top earner to date of 2023, Kitten's Joy Stakes (G3T) winner Major Dude. Todd Pletcher suggested after that Feb. 4 grass race at Gulfstream that the colt could return to dirt at some point this year. He broke his maiden on the main track at Monmouth Park in June and was stakes-placed there in the Sapling Stakes later in the summer.
Corona Bolt, who captured two first sprints last year in as many starts, including the Dec. 26 Sugar Bowl Stakes at Fair Grounds, is another one of Bolt d'Oro's top sophomore colts. In the upcoming weeks, he will look to rebound from a sixth behind Arabian Knight in the Jan. 28 Southwest Stakes (G3) after breaking flat-footed and chasing the pace over a sloppy track.