Magnum Moon returned to his base at Palm Beach Downs in south Florida early Sunday afternoon, less than 24 hours after winning the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn, trainer Todd Pletcher's record fifth victory in the race.
Owned by Robert and Lawana Low of Springfield, Mo., Magnum Moon earned a preliminary Beyer Speed Figure of 98 – a career high – following his front-running four-length victory over Quip to remain unbeaten in four career starts.
Favored at 4-5 under regular rider Luis Saez, Magnum Moon ran 1 1/8 miles over a fast track in 1:49.86. The son of Malibu Moon carried equal top weight of 122 pounds.
“He ate every oat last night and showed good energy this morning,” Robert Low said in a text Sunday afternoon. “He flew out early.”
Magnum Moon earned 100 Kentucky Derby-qualifying points Saturday, the final round of points races before the Run for the Roses May 5 at Churchill Downs and tops the leaderboard with 150. Magnum Moon earned 50 points for his 3 ½-length victory in the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) March 17, Oaklawn's final major local prep for the Arkansas Derby.
Magnum Moon, unraced at 2, will try to become the fourth winner of the Rebel and Arkansas Derby to capture the Kentucky Derby, following Sunny's Halo (1983), Smarty Jones (2004) and American Pharoah (2015).
“It's very difficult to do what he's done since Jan. 13, break his maiden, to now be 4 for 4 and win the Rebel and Arkansas Derby and be a Grade 1 winner in his fourth start,” Pletcher said Saturday night. “It's a real tribute to the horse's talent.”
Pletcher said the “tentative” plan for Magnum Moon is to fly to Kentucky April 23 and breeze once at Churchill Downs – “probably” eight days before the Kentucky Derby.
In addition to Magnum Moon, Pletcher trains three other horses in the top five, according to official standings released Saturday night by Churchill Downs. Florida Derby winner Audible is third (110 points), Louisiana Derby winner Noble Indy is fourth (110) and Wood Memorial winner Vino Rosso is fifth (107).
“It would be hard to imagine that we could have a much better last month, but we're just very fortunate and thankful and hope they can continue to train well and stay healthy through the Derby,” Pletcher said.
Pletcher also won the Arkansas Derby in 2000 (Graeme Hall), 2001 (Balto Star), 2013 (Overanalyze) and 2014 (Danza) and was second in 2010 with Super Saver, who would capture the Kentucky Derby three weeks later.
The Kentucky Derby is limited to 20 starters, with starting preference – if the race overfills – based on points earned in designated races like the Rebel and Arkansas Derby. Earnings in non-restricted stakes races is the first tiebreaker in ranking horses.
The Arkansas Derby offered 170 points (100-40-20-10) to the top four finishers toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby.
Quip ranks 10th in the standings with 90 points, but his status for the Kentucky Derby is fluid, Elliott Walden, president/CEO and racing manager for WinStar Farm, said moments after the Arkansas Derby. WinStar bred and co-owns Quip, a son of Distorted Humor.
“I don't know,” Walden said, when asked if Quip would be pointed for the Kentucky Derby. “He was second best today. He ran hard. Good effort and we'll see what happens.”
WinStar also owns pieces of Audible, Noble Indy and unbeaten Justify, who ranks ninth on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 100 points and is pointing for the race. Justify is trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert.
Solomini, third in the Arkansas Derby and second in the Rebel, is pointing for the Kentucky Derby, Justin Zayat, racing and stallion manager for Zayat Stables, LLC, which co-owns the Curlin colt, said in a text Sunday morning. Trained by Baffert, Solomini has 54 points to rank 12th.
Two other Oaklawn-raced horses are headed to the Kentucky Derby.
Bravazo, a Jan. 13 allowance/optional claiming winner for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, has 54 points to rank 13th. My Boy Jack, winner of the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 19, secured a spot with a victory in the $200,000 Lexington Stakes (G3) Saturday at Keeneland. My Boy Jack ranks 14th with 52 points.
Nine-time Oaklawn training champion Steve Asmussen has four horses on the bubble, including Arkansas Derby fourth Combatant, who ranks 21st with 32 points. Stablemate Dream Baby Dream, who finished seventh in the Arkansas Derby, has 20 points to rank 24th.
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