Seeks Fourth Win in As Many Starts
Magnum Moon, the 8-5 program favorite for Oaklawn Park's Arkansas Derby, will try to keep his unbeaten record intact while going 1 1/8 mile for the first time.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, Magnum Moon was a 3 1/2-length winner of the Rebel Stakes, his stakes debut, on March 17 at the track. Another victory Saturday could make Magnum Moon the second wagering choice, behind Justify, for the Kentucky Derby.
Owners Robert and Lawana Low, who live just outside Springfield Missouri, are best known for campaigning grade 1 winner Capote Belle in the late 1990s. They consider Oaklawn their home track.
“We’ve been going there for 40 years, plus,” Robert Low. “We love that place. It’s like a second home.” Thus, the 68-year-old businessman said he and his wife would “dearly love” to win the Arkansas Derby, a race almost at the top of their bucket list.
“It’s maybe just a bit behind the Kentucky Derby,” Low said.
Magnum Moon is scheduled to face eight rivals Saturday, including Rebel runner-up Solomini, Rebel third finisher Combatant, Tampa Bay Derby winner Quip and unbeaten Tenfold.
Quip will represent the first Oaklawn starter for Rodolphe Brisset, a former assistant under trainer Bill Mott. Quip has won three of four career races, including the Tampa Bay Derby last time out.
A son of Distorted Humor, Quip arrived last Saturday in Hot Springs after being rerouted from last Saturday's Toyota Blue Grass Stakes.
“He settled very good,” Brisset said. “It seems like he’s been here for the whole meet. We had schooling sessions at the gate and a schooling session in the paddock. He’s done everything very well.
“I think we have some good tactical speed,” Brisset said. “Watching a couple of replays of the Arkansas Derby the past couple of years, it looks like we have a pretty decent run before the first turn. He won on the lead, he won stalking. I don’t think we need to overanalyze anything. If we have a clean break, don’t be surprised to see us on the lead.”
Solomini was a troubled second in the Rebel, encountering traffic trouble at the top of the stretch.
“Just need a clean trip,” said Justin Zayat, whose family's Zayat Stables owns Solomini.
Trainer Steve Asmussen is scheduled to be represented by three starters in Combatant, Tenfold and Dream Baby Dream.
The consistent Combatant has finished second in three previous starts, all stakes races, before the Rebel. He has drawn outside for the third consecutive race.
“At a mile and an eighth, we’ve got a little longer run into the first turn, so hopefully he won’t be jeopardized as much as he was in his last two races,” Asmussen said.
Tenfold, a son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, will make his stakes debut after winning two 1 1/16-mile races earlier in the meeting.
Dream Baby Dream exits a runner-up finish in the Sunland Derby on March 25 at Sunland Park.
Probable post time for the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby, the 11th of 12 races on the closing-day card, is 6:18 p.m. (Central). Doors open Saturday at 10:30 a.m., with a special first post of 12:35 p.m. and the infield will be open.
The Arkansas Derby field from the rail out: Beautiful Shot, Richard Eramia to ride, 122 pounds, 30-1 on the morning line; Machismo, Scott Spieth, 118, 20-1; Tenfold, Victor Espinoza, 118, 10-1; Dream Baby Dream, Luis Contreras, 118, 15-1; Solomini, Flavien Prat, 118, 2-1; Magnum Moon, Luis Saez, 122, 8-5; Plainsman, C.J. McMahon, 118, 30-1; Quip, Florent Geroux, 122, 9-2; and Combatant, Ricardo Santana Jr., 118, 6-1.
Edited track release with additional content by Dick Downey