By Dick Jerardi
The 2-year-old filly had only been in trainer David Dotolo’s barn for a few days last spring. She was near the wire one morning when she dumped the exercise rider and took off the wrong way down the homestretch.
“She came off the track at 100 miles an hour, went flying down the cement,” Dotolo said. “She was all cut up, knees, stifles, ankles, everything.”
Fortunately, she had made it back to the barn area and eventually to Dotolo’s Barn 26.
“For 5 weeks, we had to stop training her altogether and just walk her,” Dotolo said. “She actually took that very well. She’s a very intelligent filly.”
The Pennsylvania bred filly, named Aifoe’s (pronounced Efa’s) Magic also happens to be very fast. And she just happens to be a daughter of Smarty Jones, the most magical name in the history of Pennsylvania racing.
Dotolo and Arthur Hetherington of A and J Racing Stable, LLC got the filly for $16,000 in October, 2022 at the Timonium Yearling Sale. She was sent to Tommy and Lori Fackler’s Best A Luck Farm in Reddick, Florida.
“All she wants to do is run,” Dotolo was told before he got her. “Tommy (Fackler) thought our biggest problem was going to be to keep her relaxed. She just wanted to go.”
Her first breeze at Parx, Dotolo said, was 35 1/5 seconds, really fast for a 2-year-old filly.
And when she made her racing debut on Sept. 11 at Parx, Aoife’s Magic nearly ran out of the TV set, winning by 10 3/4 lengths in a maiden race for Pa. Breds for jockey Wilfred Vasquez.
The trainer wanted as easy a race as possible because he planned to bring her back 12 days later on Pennsylvania Derby Day in the $150,000 Imply Stakes.
“That was the goal,” Dotolo said.
Aoife’s Magic was fifth early in the stake and then exploded in the stretch to win by 4 1/4 lengths.
Smarty’s owner Pat Chapman was watching from Florida and was overcome with emotion.
“I felt like I was watching Smarty,” she said. “I had butterflies and I cried. I am so thrilled for them and this filly and for Smarty.”
Rodney Eckenrode, who stands Smarty Jones as his Equistar Farm in Annville, Pa., was at Parx on Pa. Derby Day to see Aoife’s Magic. The mare Polarized, who raced at Penn National in 2016 and 2017, now has a Smarty yearling filly and is in foal to Smarty.
“Bring me a good mare and he’ll get her pregnant,” Eckenrode said of the great Smarty Jones.
Dotolo is looking at the $200,000 Shamrock Rose Stakes at Penn National on Nov. 22 as a potential next start for Aoife’s Magic. If that happens, it will be 20 years to the day that Smarty Jones announced himself to the world by winning the Pennsylvania Nursery at Parx by 15 lengths, while running 7 furlongs in an otherworldly 1:21.88 on Nov. 22, 2003.