by Ted Black
Golden Years entered Saturday’s Maryland Million Nursery, for two-year-olds, with some buzz: a well-bred colt, a six-figure auction purchase from a well-respected barn, and the owner of a flashy maiden score.
My Magician, on the other hand, arrived in the Lassie, the Nursery’s filly counterpart, with no buzz at all, with just a pair of third-place finishes to her name.
Yet by the end of the day, the pair shared something more important than buzz: both were stakes winners.
In the opening race on the Maryland Million card on Saturday, Golden Years lived up to his billing as the prohibitive 3-10 favorite in the Nursery when he gained command midway on the far turn and then held safe Legal Punch for a 1 1/2 length score while covering the six furlongs in a solid 1:10.54 (older sprinters covered the same ground in 1:09.93 three races later). Golden Years, a Not For Love colt bred in West Virginia by O’Sullivan Farms, has now won both of his starts for trainer Rodney Jenkins and owner Hillwood Stable LLC (Ellen Charles) and earned over $80,000. Golden Years is out of the Oh Say mare Sweet Annuity, a half-sister to Russell Road, who won the West Virginia Breeders Classic later on Saturday.
A healthy $120,000 purchase at the Fasig-Tipton Eastern Fall Yearling sale in September 2013, Golden Years now will head to Florida to spend the winter. Golden Years had captured a maiden special weight event at Laurel on September 10 as the 6-5 choice in his career debut following a series of fast workouts over the strip. He is not eligible to either the West Virginia Futurity of Tri-State Futurity, which could have been two likely spots for him.
“Ms. Charles bought him at the sale on my advice,” Jenkins said. “I really liked the way that he looked. Then ever since I started with him, he’s really been training well. He’s definitely a nice colt… Ms. Charles likes to spend the winter in Florida and that’s where he’ll be heading.”
Jenkins is perhaps best known locally for his work with Bandbox, a New York-bred son of Tapit who won five of 15 races and earned nearly $400,000 during a career hampered with soundness issues. Although Golden Years has started his career in somewhat similar fashion to Bandbox, who won his first three starts, including a pair of stakes and later took the Grade 3 General George, Jenkins was reluctant to compare them.
“You can’t really compare the two,” Jenkins said on Saturday. “This is a nice colt, but Bandbox was special. He had so much talent. He just had so many soundness problems. This horse has plenty of potential. He’s going to have a good career. But I really can’t compare him that favorably with Bandbox. To me, Bandbox was special. We just could never keep him sound.”
Seven races after the Nursery, My Magician posted one of the day’s biggest upsets when she rallied from just off the pace to capture the Lassie by a neck over the fast-closing Rocky Policy. My Magician, a 28-1, covered the six furlongs in 1:12.22. While Golden Years arrived in the Nursery as the odds-on choice following a sharp, debut score, My Magician had finished third in each of her first two starts against maiden special weight foes at Timonium and Laurel and was hardly expected to find the winner’s circle for the first time on Saturday.
In her prior race, My Magician scooted off to an early four-length advantage before tiring. Though third, she was beaten by 13 lengths.
“We gave her the race at Timonium (a four-furlong sprint), and she showed speed,” said winning owner R. Larry Johnson. “Then she ran away from the kid in that last race, went too fast early.”
On Saturday, she delivered on the promise her connections thought she had.
“We liked her when we bought her [for $17,000 at the same sale from which Golden Years was purchased] and took her to Saratoga, but she got really sick,” said trainer Michael Trombetta, who had earlier recorded a victory in the Maryland Million Sprint with D C Dancer. “She was on antibiotics most of the summer with a nasty cold, missing a lot of time. We took a shot here and this exceeds our wildest expectations.”
Trombetta had hardly expected the juvenile daughter of Street Magician to find the winner’s circle for the first time on Saturday. He had already begun contemplating when and where to run her next in a maiden special weight event. But with My Magician earning her diploma in a stakes score for Johnson, who also co-bred the filly with Dr. and Mrs. Thomas Bowman and Brooke Bowman, the filly’s options shift.
“Winning a stakes race for your first win kind of complicates things,” Trombetta said. “If she had gotten beat today, we would have just found a maiden race for her. But since she won this race, maybe we can come back in an entry level allowance or may just go in another stakes.”
Saturday’s win by My Magician gave her sire, Street Magician, also owned by Johnson and standing at Heritage Stallions, his first Maryland Million victory. She also lifted co-breeders Dr. Tom and Chris Bowman into a tie for third-place among producers of Maryland Million winners with five. Bonita Farms stands alone at the top with seven, thanks to the latest score by Outbacker in the Maryland Million Starter Handicap.