Chalk up another Kentucky Derby prep race for trainer Todd Pletcher. Robert and Lawana Low's Magnum Moon was a dominating winner of Saturday's Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, winning his fourth consecutive start to stay undefeated. The 100 points he earned, added to the 50 from the Rebel Stakes, easily secure the 3-year-old son of Malibu Moon a spot in the starting gate on the first Saturday in May. Off as the 4-5 favorite in a field of nine, Magnum Moon and jockey Luis Saez completed nine furlongs over Oaklawn's fast main track in 1:49.86.
It was about four lengths back to Tampa Bay Derby winner Quip, who nosed out Solomini for the place. Combatant finished fourth.
“I thought it (his race) was very good,” said Pletcher. “Very pleased with the outcome. A little concerned that he drifted out the last part, but it looked liked he sort of halfway thought about jumping over the tire marks when he went the by the eighth pole where the gate was and sort of skipped over those. I think he was maybe just drifting away from that. Aside from that, I thought he finished with good energy and was pulling away from some nice horses. He showed his versatility. He's won a number of different ways now and I think he's proven that he's the kind of horse that doesn't need the race to unfold a certain way, that he's able to kind of make his own race.”
Drawn near the center of the field, Magnum Moon broke well to find himself challenged early by both Quip and Machismo. Saez let Magnum Moon extend his stride a bit to take the lead around the first turn, completing a quarter in :23.34. Quip settled a length back into second, while Tenfold came up the inside to be third.
Striding down the backstretch with his ears pricked, Magnum Moon allowed Saez to take a comfortable long hold through a half in :48.60. Quip got closer by a half-length, but Saez never panicked, waiting all through the far turn even as Quip approached Magnum Moon's throatlatch.
At the top of the lane, Magnum Moon burst away from the field by two lengths. He drifted out a few times through the stretch, but continued on strongly to cross under the wire about four lengths the best. Quip was very game to the finish line, keeping his nose in front of Solomini. Combatant rounded out the top four.
“I thought there was going to be a little speed,” admitted Saez. “We were in a good position he broke really sharp. I'm not going to choke him I am just going to stay there and he was very comfortable into the turn he was traveling pretty good. When I came to the stretch I felt like he was looking at the gate marks so when we got there I touched him a little and he went. We will see what happens.”
Both Magnum Moon and Quip had already earned enough points to make the Derby field, but Solomini's 20-point tally from third brings him into the Run for the Roses as well. The minimum number of points required to make the top 19 (Gronkowski has the 20th spot from Europe) on the 2018 Kentucky Derby leaderboard is 39.
The full Derby leaderboard is available here: Road to the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard (Runaway Ghost out)
Bred in Kentucky by Ramona S. Bass, Magnum Moon was a $380,000 Keeneland September yearling sale purchase. The colt did not make his first start until January of this year, breaking his maiden by 4 1/2 lengths at Gulfstream Park. Next out, Magnum Moon captured an allowance event, then took his show on the road to Oaklawn Park. The Rebel Stakes saw the colt win by 3 1/2 lengths. Overall, Magnum Moon has won all four of his lifetime starts to earn over $1.1 million.
Pletcher has also saddled the winners of this year's Florida Derby, Holy Bull, Louisiana Derby, and the Wood Memorial.
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