Combatant Connections Want to Catch A Break
By Dick Downey with Oaklawn Park notes
Undefeated Rebel Stakes winner Magnum Moon (photo) drew post position 6 and was installed as the 8-5 morning line favorite for Saturday’s Arkansas Derby. The Malibu Moon colt will try to give Todd Pletcher a fifth win in Oaklawn’s signature race.
Just to Magnum Moon’s inside in post 5 will be Rebel Stakes runner-up Solomini, the 2-1 second choice on the morning. Ridden by Flavien Prat, the colt will be looking to give Bob Baffert a third win in the race and first since 2015 with American Pharoah.
The horses broke from the gate much the same configuration in the Rebel, with Magnum Moon exiting from post 4 and Solomini post 3.
Tampa Bay Derby winner Quip drew post 8 and was made the 9-2 third choice in the field of nine. The Rodolphe Brisset-trainee was flattered last weekend when Tampa Bay Derby runner-up Flameaway finished second in the Toytota Blue Grass Stakes, and fourth-place finisher Vino Rosso came back to win the Wood Memorial Stakes.
Combatant, a son of Scat Daddy, is a horse with significant connections still in search of a signature victory.
Trained by Steve Asmussen and co-owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC and Willis Horton Racing LLC, Combatant has finished second or third in his last four starts – all major stakes events.
“I think he’s been a little disadvantaged, just with the pace scenarios and his placement in the starting gate,” Winchell racing manager David Fiske said Monday afternoon. “I think the circumstances have kind of conspired against him, going all the way back to the race at Remington last fall.”
In his last four starts, Combatant has finished second in the Springboard Mile Stakes on Dec. 17 at Remington Park, second in the Smarty Jones Stakes onn Jan. 15, second in the Southwest Stakes on Feb. 19 and third in the Rebel on March 17, the last three races coming at Oaklawn Park. In reverse order, he drew post 10 in the Rebel, post 9 in the Southwest and the rail in the Smarty Jones.
Combatant has amassed 22 Kentucky Derby qualifying points with those finishes to rank 24th on the Derby leaderboard.
Fiske said Combatant’s races have been impacted by horses getting loose on the lead and drawing outside post positions in his last two starts. Combatant has a 1-3-1 record from six lifetime starts and earnings of $338,550.
“Hopefully, he can catch a break,” Fiske said. “I was telling somebody this morning, if he were to run third and pick up $100,000, he would have almost half-a-million dollars next to his name and still be eligible for non-winners of two.”
Winchell Thoroughbreds has campaigned, among others, 2017 Horse of the Year Gun Runner and champion Untapable. Willis Horton’s best runners include champions Will Take Charge and Take Charge Brandi.
The Arkansas Derby field
1 Beautiful Shot 30-1 (R Eramia), 2 Machismo 20-1 (S Spieth),3 Tenfold 10-1 (V Espinoza), 4 Dream Baby Dream 15-1 (L Contreras), 5 Solomini 2-1 (F Prat), 6 Magnum Moon 8-5 (L Saez), 7 Plainsman 30-1 (C J McMahon), 8 Quip 9-2 (F Geroux) 9 Combatant 6-1 (R Santana Jr)