NWA radio personality reaches winner’s circle at Kentucky Derby

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 2,374 views 

Derek "Deek" Kastner and his wife, Lexi, following the 149th running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 6, in Louisville, Ky. (Photo courtesy Derek Kastner).

Derek “Deek” Kastner of Springdale has been picking horses since he was seven. Several months ago, one of those picks was his most wise investment.

Kastner, a popular radio personality in Northwest Arkansas and lifelong horse racing fan, was in Louisville, Ky., this past weekend, where he watched a horse he owns win the sport’s most famous race.

At 15-1 odds, Mage won the 149th Kentucky Derby before a crowd of over 150,000 at Churchill Downs. It was the horse’s fourth career start. He’d only won one of the previous three.

“It was life-changing,” Kastner told the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal on Monday (May 8). That’s mainly for the bragging rights.

Mage’s win financially impacted the horse’s four-way ownership group the most — Ramiro Restrepo, trainer Gustavo Delgado and son/assistant trainer Gustavo Delgado Jr., and investors Sterling Racing and Commonwealth.

But beneath that layer are hundreds of owners who share in Mage’s historic victory, Kastner included.

Here’s the backstory.

Kastner, 47, grew up near Hot Springs, where horseracing is big business at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort, one of the leading racetracks in North America.

“Oaklawn is it,” Kastner said. “My grandma would walk me in when they let kids in, and when you’re 10 or 11, and you give them $2 and [you win] $7, you think, ‘This is great.’”

Kastner has followed the sport closely as a fan his entire life. But because of the high costs, only a select few can afford to get further involved by buying, training and racing thoroughbreds.

As it does with most everything, technology changed the rules. During the pandemic, Kastner said he bought stock in a thoroughbred through a mobile app that allows investors to purchase shares in horses for little money. The idea aims to open horse ownership up to more people.

Through his social media presence, Kastner caught the attention of a similar investment company based in Kentucky called Commonwealth, founded by Brian Doxtator and Chase Chamberlin. The company invests several thousand dollars in buying racehorse shares and then sells micro-shares of its ownership to interested investors for $50 each.

“Together we are going to revolutionize the ownership experience and give the world access to horses that were once unavailable to the public,” Doxtator said on the website.

There’s more with Doxtator at this link.

Kastner bought stock in a Commonwealth horse called We the People a couple of years ago that later ran in the Belmont Stakes, one of the sport’s Triple Crown races.

This past fall, Commonwealth bought seven horses that would race in 2023. Because he was an early Commonwealth adopter, Kastner developed a connection with Chamberlin and sought insight into which horse to invest in.

“Chase, you buy the horses. Which horse [of the seven] do you like,” Kastner asked.

“I really like a horse called Mage,” Chamberlin said.

“OK, get me on Mage,” Kastner replied.

Mage’s lineage further bolstered Kastner’s interest in the horse. His two grandfathers are 2008 Kentucky Derby champion Big Brown and Curlin, the American Horse of the Year in 2007 and 2008.

Kastner was disappointed when Chamberlin told him that Mage likely would race only in south Florida in 2023 and wouldn’t make any starts in Oaklawn, where he could watch the horse run in person.

“But you like him,” Kastner said.

“Yeah, I love him,” Chamberlin replied.”

Kastner remembers Mage’s first race day in Miami this past February.

“He went off at 12-1 and won — by a lot,” he said. “And from the lead.”

Mage ran fourth in his second race, and Kastner suggested to the horse’s primary owners that they should bring the horse to Oaklawn for his next start — the Arkansas Derby. They opted to keep the horse in Miami for the Florida Derby, the same day as the Arkansas Derby.

Kastner has attended most “Derby Days” at Oaklawn since he was 10 and watched the Florida Derby on television.

“[Mage] broke completely last,” he recalled. “But he made a powerful move to take the lead.”

Mage was caught by the heavy race favorite Forte and finished second. The win effectively sealed Forte’s position as a Kentucky Derby favorite. It also sealed a spot at Churchill Downs for Mage, and Kastner’s belief that he invested in the right horse.

“If he could hang with Forte, [I thought] we may have the second-best horse in the [Kentucky] Derby,” he said. “I was telling that to everybody. My horse is as good as Forte.”

In an ironic twist, Forte — the betting favorite — was a late scratch on race day with a bruised foot.

“I looked at my wife and said,’ We’re going to win,’” Kastner said. “And I am not an optimistic person.”

Kastner had been promoting his belief in Mage over the Northwest Arkansas airwaves leading up to the race. He is one half of the long-running morning radio program “The Jon and Deek Show” with Jon Williams. It ran for six years (2005-2011) on Clear Channel’s 93.3 KIGL-FM, five years (2011-2016) on Butler Broadcasting’s 104.9 KXNA-FM and since 2016 on Cumulus Media’s KRMW-FM 94.9.

“I talked him up on the radio, and people were betting,” Kastner said. “People were betting way more on him than I was, and he’s my horse. It felt weird that everybody was [betting] on him.”

Kastner and his wife, Lexi, had a front-row seat at Churchill Downs to watch Mage storm down the stretch, overtaking Two Phil’s to his inside and winning by a length.

“I did make a sappy Facebook post [before the race] that no matter what happens, it’s been a great time, trip of a lifetime, all that stuff,” Kastner. “I followed that with me losing my mind. When I tell you I lost my mind, I lost my mind. I took off up the steps before the race was over. I’m screaming because we were at the last furlong, and Mage made his move, and I know that horse.

“In hindsight, when I watched [a replay] later, I left too soon because he could’ve got caught.”

Multiple media outlets have reported that Mage shareholders through Commonwealth with at least 50 shares ($2,500) had numerous perks at Churchill Downs, including winner’s circle access and the opportunity to meet the horse and Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano.

Kastner and his two shares ($100) were in the middle of the celebration.

“That’s the Commonwealth pitch; buy shares, and that gets you all access,” Kastner explained. “I will tell you that everybody in that winner’s circle did not have $2,500 in shares. When you are wearing a Mage hat and screaming like a lunatic to the bouncer guy who looks like [Pro Football Hall of Fame tackle] Orlando Pace, ‘I’m an owner, I’m an owner, I’m an owner. Where’s the winner’s circle?’ they will usher you to the winner’s circle. Nobody questions the guy that’s screaming like a lunatic. They let me walk right by everybody.”

According to Action Network’s Darren Rovell, Commonwealth owners were paid $94.52 per share for Mage’s win. They can cash in further if the horse does well in future races. Mage moves on to the Triple Crown’s second leg, the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Racecourse in Baltimore, on May 20.

Still relishing a life-changing day in Kentucky, Kastner said he’s undecided if he’ll attend.

“I’d only been to Churchill Downs once [before this year], and they weren’t racing,” he said. “They gave us a tour, and I told Lexi, ‘When I retire, I’m going to come back here and give tours.’ It’s a magical place if you’re a horse player like me. The twin spires, the history, the plaques of all the derby winners. It is surreal that my horse will be on that wall.”