Arkansas Derby: Magnum Moon Favored in Final Kentucky Derby Prep

Kevin Stott

Wednesday, April 11, 2018 9:42 PM UTC

Wednesday, Apr. 11, 2018 9:42 PM UTC

The last race for horses to earn points for Kentucky Derby qualification comes Saturday with the Arkansas Derby from Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs as Magnum Moon, Solomini, Quip, Combatant and five other 3-year-olds attack the nine-furlong dirt track.

Magnum Moon Morning Line Favorite in Arkansas Derby

The potential field for the Kentucky Derby is shaping up with several really talented 3-year-olds having already qualified for the Run For The Roses at Churchill Downs on May 5, and the field will shape up even more after this weekend and the running of the final “Super Six” prep race, the $1 million Arkansas Derby from Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs on Saturday (TVG, 7:18 pm ET). Last Saturday, we saw three huge prep races take place in the Wood Memorial Stakes, the Blue Grass Stakes and the Santa Anita Derby, with Vino Rosso, Good Magic and Justify each earning 100 points for their respective wins in their races in what is always the biggest prep weekend on the Horse Racing calendar.

Noble Indy (Louisiana Derby) and Audible (Florida Derby) were the other two Super Six prep race winners (in the US) in March, while Mendelssohn (5/1 to win Kentucky Derby, Bovada) romped to a 18¾-length victory in the UAE Derby on March 31, instantly becoming the favorite in the Kentucky Derby Futures book (for a week) until Justify (4/1 to win Kentucky Derby, Bovada) stole the seemingly weekly shifting spotlight and is now the Futures' book chalk for the race after his impressive performance in the Santa Anita Derby.

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The contenders are ready. The stage has been set and a new champion will emerge Saturday in the 2018 Arkansas Derby! pic.twitter.com/7a7yM1WtHr

— Oaklawn Park (@OaklawnRacing) April 11, 2018
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The Arkansas Derby, first run in 1936, has given us some great horses through the years, including Sunny’s Halo (1983), Smarty Jones (2004), Curlin (2007) and the most well-known winner of the 1 1⁄8-mile (9 furlongs) dirt race, American Pharoah (2015), who ended up becoming the 12th Triple Crown winner ever and first in 37 years. The Zayat stable-owned, Bob Baffert-trained and Victor Espinoza-jockeyed 3-year-old also went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic that November to become the first horse to ever win the Grand Slam of Thoroughbred Racing.

As it always is, this year’s Arkansas Derby will be a do-or-die race for some hopefuls with with the winner earning 100 points and automatic qualification for the Kentucky Derby, 40 points going to 2nd place, 20 points for 3rd place and 10 for 4th. The draw for the 9-horse Arkansas Derby— Race 10 at Oaklawn on Saturday—was held on Wednesday.

  • 1—Beautiful Shot 30-1 (Richard Eramia)
  • 2—Machismo 20-1 (Scott Spieth)
  • 3—Tenfold 10-1 (Victor Espinoza)
  • 4—Dream Baby Dream 15-1 (Luis Contreras)
  • 5—Solomini 2-1 (Flavien Prat)
  • 6—Magnum Moon 8-5 (Luis Saez)
  • 7—Plainsman 30-1 (CJ McMahon)
  • 8—Quip 9-2 (Florent Geroux)
  • 9—Combatant 6-1 (Ricardo Santana Jr.)

Bob Baffert wisely chose to race Justify in the Santa Anita Derby instead of shipping him to the Arkansas Derby, deciding on racing Solomini (16/1 to win Kentucky Derby) at Oaklawn and also making up his mind that a leg injury to McKinzie was enough to pull him out of the entire Triple Crown series. So Solomini (34 points) will need a really strong performance Saturday to qualify for the Kentucky Derby with other strong race entrants Magnum Moon (50 points) and Quip (50 points) having already qualified for Churchill Downs. Oddsmakers made Magnum Moon (16/1 to win Kentucky Derby) the 8/5 morning line favorite for the race with the son of Curlin, Solomini, at 2/1. Lifetime, Magnum Moon is a perfect 3-0-0 (W-P-S) in three races, Solomini is 1-3-1 in five, Combatant is 1-3-1 in six races, while Quip is 3-0-0 in four races, with his only loss coming in the 2017 Kentucky Jockey Club.

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With Todd Pletcher on a major roll and Rebel Stakes winner Magnum Moon (97, 95 Beyer Speed Ratings) so darn good and saved for this signature race, the No. 6 horse with Luis Saez in the saddle should be in the mix throughout, and with a win here may vault himself onto the growing list of Kentucky Derby contenders in a year which seems to have a rare abundance of great 3-year-olds. Quip is another horse saved for Oaklawn by Trainer Rodolphe Brisset and who could win here, although he’s already headed to the Bluegrass State for the first Saturday in May, making this race much more important to other hopefuls like Combatant (40/1 to win Kentucky Derby), Tenfold and Dream Baby Dream.

The latest Kentucky Derby Media Poll (April 9) shows Justify the new #1, the 2nd-place finisher in that race, Bolt d’Oro, falling from #1 to #2 with Florida Derby winner Audible (+650 to win Kentucky Derby) now at #3. After several qualifying events and a Win in the Burradon Stakes in England, a horse named Gronkowski after you-know-who already qualified for the 144th Run For The Roses, earning his berth through the European Road to the Kentucky Derby.

Free Pick To Win: Magnum Moon (#6)Free Superfecta Pick: 6-8-5-3Best Lines Offered: Bovada
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