Unbeaten Magnum Moon Could be Poised to Steal Derby Thunder

Kevin Stott

Tuesday, April 24, 2018 2:30 PM UTC

Tuesday, Apr. 24, 2018 2:30 PM UTC

Trainer Todd Pletcher might have four horses competing in the Kentucky Derby. Magnum Moon was probably the least famous of them until winning the prestigious Arkansas Derby.

Kentucky Derby Top Contenders Preview: Magnum Moon

We recommended backing Magnum Moon in the Arkansas Derby, and after a convincing performance and impressive win at Oaklawn Park on April 7, the Todd Pletcher-trained bay colt is among the favorites for the Kentucky Derby (G1) at Churchill Downs in Louisville on May 5 (6:30 p.m. ET; NBC). And rightfully so, with the most qualifying points of all Derby entrants to date (150), an unbeaten record (4-0-0) and 95, 97 and 98 Beyer Speed Figures in three races as a 3-year-old.

One of four Pletcher-trained horses in the Run For The Roses along with Audible (+670 to win Kentucky Derby, 5Dimes), Noble Indy (+2250, 5Dimes) and Vino Rosso (11/1, Bovada), Magnum Moon and Jorge Luis Saez will try to remain unbeaten by winning the first leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown (Will There Be a Triple Crown Winner? Yes +600, No -900, 5Dimes). But with UAE Derby winner Mendelssohn, Santa Anita Derby winner Justify and 2nd-place finisher Bolt d'Oro, stablemate Audible and a couple of others who could make a case for being the Derby favorite, crossing the finish line first in The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports will probably mean a non-fatal start, a near-perfect and short route and a chance to let it loose down the homestretch and use the elite speed that has helped Magnum Moon win every race he has ever run and put him and Pletcher into a nice spot to make a little equine history.

Magnum Moon was purchased for $380,000 by Robert Low — owner of Prime Inc., one of the largest refrigerated fleets in the U.S., a company he started with one dump truck in 1970 — and his wife Lawana, and didn’t race as a 2-year-old, an albatross of sorts for 3-year-olds running in the Kentucky Derby with the last winner at Churchill Downs that didn’t race as 2-year-old coming way back in 1882 with Apollo. Magnum Moon won his racing debut on Jan. 13, a 6-furlong maiden race from Gulfstream Park and then followed up with another win for the Lows — who also owned Steppenwolfer, who finished 3rd in the 2006 Kentucky Derby — in an allowance race at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 15. “The timing was good for him after his two races in Florida,” Pletcher said after those first two green but still telling tests.

In his third race, the Rebel Stakes (G2) from Oaklawn Park on March 17, Magnum Moon won once again, this time beating fellow Kentucky Derby hopefuls Solomini (22/1 to win Kentucky Derby, Bovada), who finish 2nd, and new Derby Day entrant Combatant, who finished in 3rd place. So the stage was then set for Magnum Moon in the Super Six prep race, the Arkansas Derby from Oaklawn Park on April 14, and he didn’t disappoint, winning his fourth in a row and giving Pletcher — who won the Run For The Roses last year with Always Dreaming — a fourth horse in the Big May Horse Dance as he beat 2nd-place finisher Quip and 3rd-place finisher Solomini (again). All horses who have ever raced against Magnum Moon have seen nothing but his tail when all has been said (run) and done. Chew on that.

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Comparing Beyer Speed Figures of 3-year-old Males headed to Churchill Downs, we see a quartet of thoroughbreds who have recorded better numbers such as the Bob Baffert-trained Justify (107, 104, 101), Mendelssohn (107), Bolt d’Oro (102, 101) and stablemate Audible (99, 99), which begs the question, can Magnum Moon possibly run the best race in his life against the toughest field and will jockey get the kind of draw, race and route he needs to make him 5-0-0? And can Magnum Moon avoid that dreaded No. 17 post draw, which has still never provided us a winner at Churchill Downs? Only his mane-dresser knows for sure but with some Seattle Slew in his bloodline, probably best to have a Win ticket on this horse as well as plans for his inclusion in your exotics picks. The Kentucky Derby odds board has evolved into a shootout between Justify, Mendelssohn, Bolt d’Oro, Audible and Magnum Moon. Should those five horses all be involved in some sprint to the finish down the homestretch, then this may end up being one of the most memorable ones ever with the most amount of talent desperately trying to win the biggest race of the year and the biggest race of their young-but-now-suddenly-old careers. Life sure comes at you fast these days.

Changes in Derby Field

On Monday it was learned that the 10th-place horse in qualifying with 90 points, South Tampa Bay Derby (G2) winner Quip, will bypass the Kentucky Derby in favor of a spot in the Preakness Stakes, while the automatic qualifier from the European Road to the Derby, Gronkowski, also pulled out with a fever, just days after the New England Patriots football player he is named after purchased a "substantial stake" in the 3-year-old who has 50 Kentucky Derby qualifying points. Perhaps tickets to take a little cruise on the Titanic were sold out, Rob? Nevertheless, Quip and Gronkowski’s spots in the 20-horse field will be filled by Combatant (60/1 to win Kentucky Derby, 5Dimes) and Instilled Regard. Should another horse pull out or scratch, Snapper Sinclair (22 points, +5750 to win Kentucky Derby, 5Dimes) is next up in line with Catholic Boy (24 points) injured.

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