Notes & Quotes From the Ellis Park Derby: Gray Magician

(Gray Magician winning the Ellis Park Derby / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

From the Ellis Park Media Team:

The Peter Miller-trained Gray Magician had been second in three stakes, including the $2.5 million UAE Derby and more recently the Grade 3 Indiana Derby won by the surging quadruple graded-stakes winner Mr. Money. But Gray Magician knocked out that first stakes by wearing down the front-running Knicks Go, winner of last fall’s Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland and second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, for a half-length score in the $100,000 Ellis Park Derby, presented by Kruckemeyer & Cohn Jewelry.
Jockey Corey Lanerie — Gray Magician (1st):
“I watched his replays, and he always finishes fast,” said winning jockey Corey Lanerie after riding Gray Magician for the first time. “Today I thought we’d be sitting third, maybe fourth. But he always broke really good in his races, and again today. He’s a good gate horse, he leaves really fast in the first three jumps, and then he falls right back in your hands.
“To be honest, I almost underestimated the horse on the lead. Coming to the quarter pole, I’m taking a peek back looking for closers and almost sat a little too long and gave him a little bit of a run in front of me. It took all I had to get by him. But my horse, he just prevailed and was the best horse today. Peter Miller and his crew had him ready. I’m glad I didn’t mess it up.”
Trainer Peter Miller — Gray Magician:
The California-based Miller, who for the first time has a division based in Kentucky at Churchill Downs, won his first stakes at Ellis Park.
“It was a tough race,” he said by phone. “Knicks Go was very difficult to get by, and Corey gave a great ride. All the accolades go to my assistant, Felipe Sousa.”
“We talked about going to Mountaineer Park and going against Mr. Money in the West Virginia Derby,” Miller said. “We even talked about the Pacific Classic, a bunch of different spots. But this one made sense. He’s there, and it’s always nice to run at home. But it did come up a lot tougher than I thought. It was a pretty salty race for $100,000.
“He fires really every time. He tries hard. He’s just a really solid, nice horse. Just very happy for the owners. We passed up some more lucrative spots for this one, and it worked out.”
Jockey Gabriel Saez — Knicks Go (2nd):
“Man, what can I tell you?” said Gabriel Saez, aboard Knicks Go for the first time. “He ran a tremendous race. I got to the front end, was trying to slow it down. We turned for home, he started bottling up with all the horses. Corey’s horse was the favorite, and he was with him every step of the way. He did great.”

The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds

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