Justin Zayat said work duties will keep him from attending the Rebel Stakes, and he doesn't like it that he'll miss seeing Solomini run in person.
“It’s killing me, but hopefully I can make it for a race like the Arkansas Derby, if possible,” said Zayat, the family’s racing and stable manager.
Zayat Stables, LLC has already tasted success in the Rebel with American Pharoah, and to honor the most famous horse to ever race in Hot Springs, Oaklawn unveiled a bronze life-sized statue of him at the newly redesigned entrance to the grandstand on Jan. 11.
“I’ve heard it’s unbelievable,” Zayat said. “Coach tells me all the time that it’s beautiful. I will see it one day.”
Among the country’s most accomplished 2-year-olds last year, Solomini will be making his first start since being disqualified from a victory in the CashCall Futurity on Dec. 9 at Los Alamitos for interference in the stretch. That came after he finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and second in the FrontRunner Stakes, both at Santa Anita.
Zayat said Solomini, named for his 16-month old nephew Solomon, is the family’s best Kentucky Derby prospect since American Pharoah.
“We’ve had some nice success at Oaklawn over the years with Bodemeister and American Pharoah,” Zayat said. “Oaklawn always holds a special place in our hearts.”
A year ago, trainer Todd Pletcher won the Rebel Stakes with Malagacy. This season he is represented by Robert and Lawana Low’s Magnum Moon, who will be trying stakes company for the first time.
Unraced at two, the son of Malibu Moon is undefeated in two starts. After winning his career debut in a six-furlong maiden race at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 13, Magnum Moon won an allowance race at one mile and 40 yards at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 15.
“The timing was good for him after his two races in Florida,” said Pletcher. “He has been training well enough and running well enough to deserve a chance in a race like this. He had a little bit of time off during the summer. He is a talented colt who showed us a lot of potential. We felt that he would benefit from the extra time, and January is when he was ready.”
Magnum Moon has his final workout for the Rebel at Palm Beach Downs where he breezed five furlongs in 1:00.79 on March 10.
“He has been training very well,” Pletcher said. “He has always been a good work horse.”
The Lows purchased Magnum Moon for $380,000 at the 2016 Keeneland September yearling sale in Lexington.
Pryor: No Joke?
Owner Alex Lieblong said Friday morning that he’s leaning toward starting Pryor in the Rebel Stakes over a first-level allowance/optional claimer in which Pryor is cross-entered on Sunday.
“If it was a walkover, I’d go in the other one,” said Lieblong, chairman of the Arkansas Racing Commission. “But I don’t consider it just a walkover. There’s some good horses in that race.”
Pryor was a front-running 5 3/4-length winner of his last start, a Feb. 19 maiden special weight event at a mile.
A son of Paynter, Pryor showed little in two starts sprinting last fall at Churchill Downs, but he has flourished since moving to two turns this year. In his 3-year-old debut, Pryor was beaten a length in a Jan. 21 maiden special weight race at a mile.
“That’s what he’s bred for,” Lieblong said. “We usually try to buy something that will go two turns, and a lot of times find out they don’t want to go two turns. But every once in a while, you find a sprinter that wants to keep going. And he’s handled everything. Some horses get rattled, but mentally he’s pretty tough.”
A $200,000 OBS March 2-year-old in training purchase, Pryor is named for the late comedian Richard Pryor. Pryor’s dam is Grade 1 winner Awesome Humor.
Edited Oaklawn Park release