Magnum Moon Much the Best in Rebel
Apollo in Derby Conversation Again
By Dick Downey
Unraced at age two, Magnum Moon is now squarely in the Kentucky Derby picture after winning the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park and picking up 50 Derby points.
It was only his third race, and so far he's unbeaten. Magnum Moon debuted at Gulfstream Park sprinting in January, went two turns for the first time at Tampa Bay Downs in February and today won the 1 1/16-mile Rebel.
In 1882, Apollo won the Kentucky Derby without racing as a juvenile, and that was the last time it happened. Now there are two major contenders with the same kind of background: Magnum Moon on the east coast and Justify on the west coast. Todd Pletcher trains the former, and Bob Baffert trains the latter.
Today's win is simple enough to describe. Magnum Moon stalked pacesetter Title Ready behind initial fractions of 23.42, 47.15 and 1:11.26, pounced on the far turn and sped away from the field in the stretch, winning by 3 1/2 lengths going away in a time of 1:42.68.
Solomini, favored at 11-10 despite making his first start since December, was third at the first call, fifth at the second call and third after six furlongs. About an eighth mile from home, he had regressed a couple of lengths, but he re-rallied to finish second, a head in front of Combatant. Title Ready stayed on for fourth, beaten five lengths.
Sporting Chance, who was right there at the top of the stretch, was unable to keep up down the lane and finished 3/4 length behind Title Ready. Almost another five lengths behind Sporting Chance were Zing Zang, High North, Higher Power, Pryor and Curlin's Honor.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, Magnum Moon is a son of Malibu Moon and was bred in Kentucky by Ramona S. Bass, LLC. He's out of out of Dazzling Song, by Unbridled's Song. A late foal, he came into the world on May 9, 2015. Lawana L. and Robert E. Low purchased him for $380,000 at the Keeneland September 2016 yearling sale.
The Rebel awarded 20 Kentucky Derby points to Solomini, who how has 34. Ten points go to Combatant, running his total to 22 after several board finishes in these kinds of races. Title Ready earned his first five points.
After the race, Pletcher said the Arkansas Derby is the "most likely and most logical spot" for Magnum Moon.
Winning trainer Todd Pletcher, Magnum Moon: “We felt like we had a very talented colt. Very pleased with his first two races. But this was a step up in class and running against accomplished, seasoned colts. We were confident that he was training very well, coming into it in great shape and just hoping he could handle the continued rise in class. We were high on the colt. Louie's ridden him both starts and we were happy with that. We always thought a lot of him, from early on when was at my dad's training center as a yearling and as a 2-year-old. It didn't really change our confidence level so much (that Saez stayed on him). But that was a difficult decision. Sporting Chance is a very nice horse."
"There's nothing like seeing it actually happen. You can always prepare for it and hope for it and all that. It's still up to the horse to go there out and prove it. Very proud of him for doing it today."
Winning rider Luis Saez, Magnum Moon: Talking about the decision making process to ride Magnum Moon over Sporting Chance: “We took like two weeks to make that decision. I always thought this horse was going to be a good horse. I love Sporting Chance, he’s a very good horse. But we decide to ride him today and he proved he’s a good horse. He was traveling pretty good. He broke good and was in the right spot. When he came to the stretch, he just kept running and never stopped. Well, it was magnificent you know. That horse is a pretty good horse. He proved today that he can really run and I don’t know. Let’s see, hopefully everything will be going good for the Arkansas Derby.”
Winning owner Robert Low, Magnum Moon: “We’re just going to relish this victory and take one at a time. We’ll just see how he comes back. Luis, Todd, the whole team did a fantastic job and we’re just so proud to be associated with this horse. We’d been communicating with Todd where he was. We were confident, but nervous. He got the job done. Todd is very organized. We knew he had him ready for the race.”
Flavien Prat, second on Solomini: “Had a good race… We had a good trip. We got on the inside and that’s not the best for him, but then I wasn’t going to keep him off. And he made a nice run. I mean he ran a good second.”
Trainer Steve Asmussen, third, fourth and sixth with Combatant, Title Ready and Zing Zang respectively: “Zing Zang, the race track has not been playing towards him at all this year. Combatant, I would have loved to have had a better draw so he would have had a better position earlier. He made a long run and looked like he got a little tired down the lane. Title Ready held on really well.”
Jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr., third with Combatant – :He ran good today again. He doesn’t know how to run yet so he is doing better and better every time. He only got beat for a second. He ran good, I am happy how he ran. Steve is happy and the owner is happy and you know we will go from there.”