Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Thursday, May 09, 2013

| Churchill Downs Communications | 05/09/2013 #

In Today’s Notes: The Magna Fortuna Show Goes On

Magna Fortuna, the gelding made famous by defying the odds when his dam was saved from slaughter while in foal, has been in Illinois racing news consistently since he hit the racetrack last year.  He reached a new level of celebrity when, in only his third start, he proved a nine-length victor at Hawthorne Race Course on March 13 in a restricted maiden special weight.  On Wednesday, in his Arlington International Racecourse debut, the colt lovingly known as Taxi defied literal odds when he drove to a dramatic victory at 11-1. 

One would think that a neck victory in a mid-week state-bred allowance would be no cause for celebration, but nothing in the case of Taxi has ever been without a little theatre.  “He’s a clown.  He’s just a neat horse, and he loves his attention,” explained long-time Illinois-based trainer Michele Boyce. “He also knows that if he does certain things he gets treats.  He enjoys the occasional peppermint, but loves his carrots.”

A raucous ovation for the colt took place when 16 members of his ownership group Rescue Me Racing LLC swarmed the winner’s enclosure after the race – most of them donning yellow and black Taxi colors, including hats with the gelding’s name.  “I’ve been in this game a long time, and part of the fun is watching these people come to the barn and winner’s circle and experience it all.  I was having more fun watching the owners than the horse,” Boyce laughed.  “Some of them were crying and everyone was high-fiving and hugging.  It was great.”

“We are so proud of him,” gushed owner part-owner Laura Donohue.  “Michele had said before the race that she just wanted to see him rate and relax.  You could tell he was relaxed down the backside.  I definitely got a little nervous when I saw that other horse (Lahshad) coming up a little bit, but by the time he got to him, he already had it.  We’re speechless, again.”

The owners have good reason to be excited about such favorable outcomes, as expectations have never been lofty for the son of Magna Graduate.  In fact, it was not known that his dam was expecting when she was saved from her doom.  While being treated for four lame hooves, she started to show signs of pregnancy.  Then, a few months later, Taxi was born into complete obscurity.

After extensive research, it was discovered that the mare was a well-bred Silver Hawk daughter named Silver Option, and Taxi was the offspring of a mating with Magna Graduate, a promising first crop stallion at Darby Dan Farm in Kentucky.  A famously sound racehorse who competed at the top level, Magna Graduate won seven graded races and finished fourth in the 2006 Dubai World Cup.  Perhaps being an underdog is a genetic trait, as he only went off as the favorite in eight of his 36 starts, despite finishing in the top three in 22 of those races.

Today, though, the attention-loving offspring Taxi basked in his own underdog victory.  “He came back great and ate up good.  He’s happy as can be,” reported Boyce. 

The victory has taken the trainer from hoping he would hit the board in yesterday’s first-level allowance to having enhanced confidence in the future.  That feeling is shared by jockey Julio Felix, who has been aboard for all five of his starts.

“He broke well and felt really confident the entire time.  When he was going into the gate, he was ready to go.  I had a lot of horse left turning for home and he really dug in to win over older horses.  The owners made me feel like it was my first win (with their celebration).  They were so nice,” Felix stated.

“Julio has been a huge part of getting him to relax and learn.  He is always here and puts a lot of time into the horse.  He rode a great race, even if he was a couple pounds over,” Boyce joked.  “Taxi has really matured.  He’s definitely getting better and progressing every day.”  He really laid his body down for the first time and showed great courage and determination.”

Like any good drama, the past is definitely affecting the future of the protagonist, as Taxi is being aimed toward more turf and polytrack races.  “We knew he would move up on the Polytrack because of his breeding,” explained Boyce.  “With the Danzig and Silver Hawk in there, we definitely think he may be even better on turf.  The blood is there.  He has a great pedigree.” 

Indeed, his grandsire Honor Grades sired 1997 Mid-America Triple at Arlington winner Honor Glide, and his damsire, the aforementioned Silver Hawk, sired Beverly D. Stakes winner Memories of Silver, as well as English Derby winner Benny the Dip that same year.  Those stallions also tend to infuse sturdiness and longevity into their bloodlines. Honor Glide, for example, won two Grade I races in 38 starts over six seasons before retiring to stud.  Taxi seems to have not fallen far from that family tree. “He’s sound and has really good wind. Conformation-wise, he’s a really good looking little horse.  He’s really well put together.”

As far as what the immediate future may hold for the star of the show, “I’m quite convinced he’ll get through his Illinois conditions well.  Will he be a stakes horse?  It’s too early to say, really.  But, he’s progressing and improving, and I think you have something to work with as a trainer,” Boyce stated with a smile.  “There’s a stakes on June 1 we’ll look at (Springfield Stakes) at a mile, but we’ll let him develop and let him tell us where to go.”

According to Boyce, the show is definitely going on.  “The excitement of a win like that is what you should generate at the track.  You shouldn’t be blasé about it, like winning is old hat to you.  It’s all come together for us, fortunately, and I think the owners will have a lot of fun.”