Illinois racing loves to keep its champions as much as it loves to crown them. In the case of local star mare Third Chance, the second best thing to keeping her on the track racing for the fans is to have her at an Illinois farm producing future stars.

A winner of 10 of 13 starts in Illinois, including seven of nine at Arlington, Third Chance spent three seasons wowing locals with brilliant performances, including winning her last eight Illinois races by an average of 5.75 lengths. After various inauspicious events led to her retirement earlier this year, she has turned potential harm into evident charm and been pronounced in foal to prominent stallion Malibu Moon.

“Our original plan was to retire her after a stakes at Hawthorne last October, but she got caught up in the equine herpes outbreak, and we got quarantined. After that, we decided to bring her back another season for the spring and maybe another season. Just before her first race at Hawthorne this winter, she got caught up with an ankle issue. We could have got a couple more races out of her, but we just don’t do it that way,” explained breeder, part-owner and local news anchor Ron Magers.

“So, we got a special van and got her to Kentucky as quickly as we could. Two and a half weeks later, she was bred to one of the stallions on our short list, Malibu Moon,” he continued. Such a sharp decision might prove to be an ingenious move, as Malibu Moon is the sire of the current Kentucky Derby favorite Orb, and could be on the brink of going from prominent to premier.

Though Magers breeds many of his eight broodmares in Kentucky, he supports the Illinois program by dropping his foals locally. “There’s so much money on the table,” he explained in reference to the Illinois-restricted purses. “We have so much fun in Illinois. This is where we live and where we like to race.”

At the impending Arlington International Racecourse meet, Magers plans to unleash some of those local charges, including Banner Bill, a half-brother (through the mare Temporada) to Third Chance who zipped four furlongs this morning in a bullet :46.80.
From the second crop of promising young Unbridled’s Song stallion Rockport Harbor, Banner Bill is a stakes-winning 4-year-old gelding looking to get back on track after winning the first three of his eight starts, and dropping the subsequent five. After posting three consecutive bullet works and shaking off the layoff cobwebs in an allowance at Hawthorne Race Course April 6, Magers hopes to enter him in a non-winners of three on May 12 on Arlington’s Polytrack – a synthetic surface on which the gelding won all three of his races at Woodbine.

“Banner Bill has had a difficult time. He had a great 2-year-old year, got injured, and rehabbed almost all of his 3-year-old year. He has had difficulty coming back and we still aren’t too sure of what we have, yet,” Magers said. “But, he looked really great this morning.”

Magers and partners also have a few others out of Temporada being aimed toward the Arlington meet. “We have a 2-year-old full-sister to Banner Bill named Bellarada coming to Anthony Granitz and a 3-year-old half-sister by City Zip named Excellent Chance being aimed to an Illinois-bred allowance on May 8,” said Magers. He also plans on bringing fresh blood to the Arlington meet, including recently purchased stock from this winter’s Ocala sales in Florida.

The future looks bright on all fronts for Magers, who has been involved in the local industry since 1990. He hopes to sell Temporada’s recently foaled colt by Bernardini, one of the world’s most popular stallions. As far as his beloved Third Chance, whose projected foaling date is March 10, 2014, he is still deciding on the next covering stallion, but has a lot more time to do so this time.

“At the end of the day, what they said around 1850 – ‘breed the best with the best and hope for the best’ – is still true,” he said. Hopefully the charm of Illinois’ new favorite broodmare is a lucky one.