Trainer Todd Pletcher entered Saturday’s GI Arkansas Derby having saddled back-to-back winners of the race in the form of Overanalyze (Dixie Union) and Danza (Street Boss) in 2013 and 2014, respectively. Super Saver (Maria’s Mon) went down to a neck defeat in 2010, but managed to go one better in the GI Kentucky Derby three weeks later to give Pletcher his first victory in the ‘Run for the Roses’ and Always Dreaming, a son of 2012 Arkansas Derby winner and Kentucky Derby runner-up Bodemeister (Empire Maker), became his second last May. Robert and Lawana Low’s ‘TDN Rising Star’ Magnum Moon (Malibu Moon) will have his fair share of supporters to add to that total following a front-running defeat of stablemate and fellow ‘Rising Star’ Quip (Distorted Humor) in the Natural State.
Somewhat surprisingly sent to the lead by Luis Saez, Magnum Moon slowed the pace down through the middle stages and had plenty left when popped the question, winning with ease, if still a bit green.
“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,” said trainer Todd Pletcher. “Aside from that, I thought he finished with good energy and was pulling away from some nice horses.”
Given some rein after a clean dispatch from gate six, Magnum Moon led the Derby field past the post for the first time, with GII Tampa Bay Derby winner Quip to his outside and the ambitiously spotted Machismo (More Than Ready) down to his inner. Tenfold (Curlin) found a good spot just behind that leading trio, while Solomini (Curlin) settled a few places further back before drifting wide on the first turn.
Magnum Moon’s opening quarter-mile was :23.34, quick enough on bare analysis, but he managed to accomplish it without overextending himself. In fact, he relaxed further still on the lead, covering an internal half-mile in :50.04, and when Quip tried turning up the pressure on his barnmate at the three-furlong point, Magnum Moon more than had the answers. Saez kicked his mount further in front off the home corner and soon after, Magnum Moon began edging to his right, but the race was in safe keeping. He and fellow ‘TDN Rising Star’ Justify (Scat Daddy) head to Louisville both underfeated and both looking to squelch the so-called Apollo curse dating back to 1882.
“I thought there was going to be a little speed,” Saez commented. “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.”
Quip fought on bravely for second, while Solomini endured a brutally wide trip and did exceptionally well to hang on for third.
“He didn’t break as sharply as we would have liked. He was third best today. The winner is a really nice horse. We’ll talk to Bob [Baffert], but I thought it was a good race and now it’s on to Kentucky,” said Zayat Stables’ Racing Manager Justin Zayat.
Magnum Moon earned a big debut Beyer of 95 when defeating the aforementioned Machismo into third Jan. 13 at Gulfstream Park, then school was in session when he was accorded ‘Rising Star’ status for an easier-than-it-looked two-length allowance win at Tampa Feb. 15. Eschewing that track’s Derby Mar. 10, he was given an extra week and took full advantage when powering home from off-the-pace to best Solomini by 3 1/2 lengths in this track’s GII Rebel S.
Magnum Moon is campaigned by Robert and Lawana Low, whose best horse to date was the talented distaff sprinter Capote Belle (Capote), winner of the 1996 GI Test S. The couple has been down the Triple Crown trail before, namely with Steppenwolfer (Aptitude), who was runner-up in the 2006 Arkansas Derby before finishing third in Barbaro (Dynaformer)’s Kentucky Derby and fourth in the GI Belmont S.
Magnum Moon is one of three winners from as many to race for his unraced dam, herself an $825,000 Keeneland September graduate from an outstanding female family. Second dam Win McCool won the GIII Floral Park H. and was a daughter of GSW Win Crafty Lady, the dam of MGISW and $1.65-million FTFFEB juvenile Harmony Lodge (Hennessy) and Graeme Hall (Dehere), the first of Pletcher’s five Arkansas Derby winners in 2000. The latter’s full-sister Win’s Fair Lady sold in excess of $2 million at public auction in 2005 and 2006 and bred GSW First Passage (Giant’s Causeway). Dazzling Song did not produce a foal in 2016 and delivered an Uncle Mo filly last year. Her foal by War Front died earlier this year.
ARKANSAS DERBY-GI, $1,000,000, OP, 4-14, 3yo, 1 1/8m, 1:49.86, ft.
1–MAGNUM MOON, 122, c, 3, by Malibu Moon
1st Dam: Dazzling Song, by Unbridled’s Song
2nd Dam: Win McCool, by Giant’s Causeway
3rd Dam: Win Crafty Lady, by Crafty Prospector
1ST GRADE I WIN. ‘TDN RISING STAR’. ($380,000 Ylg ’16
KEESEP). O-Lawana L. & Robert E. Low; B-Ramona S. Bass, LLC
(KY); T-Todd A. Pletcher; J-Luis Saez. $600,000. Lifetime
Record: 4-4-0-0, $1,177,800. Werk Nick Rating: A+++ *Triple
Plus*. Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.2–Quip, 122, c, 3, Distorted Humor–Princess Ash, by Indian
Charlie. ‘TDN RISING STAR’ O-WinStar Farm LLC, China Horse
Club International Ltd. & SF Racing LLC; B-WinStar Farm, LLC
(KY); T-Rodolphe Brisset. $200,000.3–Solomini, 118, c, 3, Curlin–Surf Song, by Storm Cat. ($270,000
Ylg ’16 KEESEP). O-Zayat Stables, LLC, Mrs. John Magnier,
Michael B. Tabor & Derrick Smith; B-Glenna R. Salyer (KY);
T-Bob Baffert. $100,000.Margins: 4, NK, HD. Odds: 0.80, 6.30, 2.80.
Also Ran: Combatant, Tenfold, Plainsman, Dream Baby Dream, Beautiful Shot, Machismo. Click for the Equibase.com chart, the TJCIS.com PPs or the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree. VIDEO, sponsored by Fasig-Tipton.