HOT SPRINGS, Ariz. — Mega-trainer Todd Pletcher, the winner of last year's Kentucky Derby with Always Dreaming, took dead aim on a repeat when Robert and Lawana Low's Magnum Moon came home a 3-1/2-length winner in the March 17 running of Oaklawn Park's $900,000, Grade 2 Rebel Stakes. The win gave the 3-year-old colt 50 Kentucky Derby qualifying points and virtually assured him a starting gate stall for the May 5th classic.

After the day’s races, the Low's color bearer sits fifth on the list for one of the 20 starting spots in the Derby.

The win gave the son of Malibu Moon from the Unbridled Song mare Dazzling Song a perfect record of three for three that includes a maiden win at Gulfstream Park in January and an allowance score at Tampa Bay Downs in mid-February.

Sign Up for E-News

With Luis Saez in the saddle, Magnum Moon defeated nine rivals in the mile and a sixteenth Rebel by attending the pace for six furlongs that was being set by long shot Title Ready and New York riding champion Jose Ortiz. Title Ready would eventually finish fourth.

Malibu Moon made the lead around the far turn and enjoyed a 2-1/2-length advantage as the field straightened away for the race for the precious 50 Derby points and a winner's check for $540,000 that were earned in 1:42.60 on a fast track.

At the wire, it was Malibu Moon by 3-1/2 lengths over the 11 to 10 favorite, Zayat Stable's Solomini and jockey Flavian Prat. The Bob Baffert trainee was trying to follow in the steps of the now-retired American Pharoah on his way to the 2015 Triple Crown and the Horse-of-the-Year award. They used the Rebel and Oaklawn's Grade 1 Arkansas Derby as their stepping stones for the Kentucky Derby.

Solomini and Prat were in a challenging position coming into the home stretch but were pinned against the rail by the eventual show horse, Combatant, who was being ridden by Ricardo Santana, Jr.

Solomini earned 20 Derby points for a total of 34, a marginal number at best to qualify for the Derby. Combatant's 10 points gave him a total of 22 with seven races left with a point distribution in each of 100-40-20-10 points to the first four finishers.

Pletcher went into the Rebel with Malibu Moon with a confident attitude. As he was readying his charge for the race, the silver-maned trainer said, “The timing was good after his two races in Florida. He has been training well enough and running well enough to deserve a chance for a race like this.”

At Turfway Park, Blended Citizen and local rider Kyle Frey staged a long drive down the stretch to win the $202,400, Grade 2 Jeff Ruby Stakes at a mile and a furlong on the All-Weather Track. The Greg Hall and Sayjay Racing color bearer defeated 11 rivals to earn 20 Derby points for his California-based owners and trainer Doug O'Neill by running the nine furlongs in 1:50.87.

The former claimer is now two for nine lifetime with $167,054 in purse earnings.

Derby Points 2018

Here are the current standings as of March 17 of the top 20 horses racing in North America that are trying to qualify for the May 5 running of the Kentucky Derby. A field of 20 will be selected that may include one representative from Europe and one from Japan. In the event of a tie in qualifying points, purse earnings in unrestricted races will be used to break the tie. Under the system formulated by Churchill Downs, there is no advantage in qualifying first; nor is there a disadvantage in qualifying 20th.

64 Points — Ruis Racing's Bolt d'Oro, Trainer Mick Ruiz, $780,000. 50 of those points were earned in the San Felipe Stakes.

63 — Godolphin's Enticed, Kiaran McLaughlin, $360,880. Enticed won the Gotham Stakes.

54 — Calumet Farm's Bravazo, D. Wayne Lukas, $349,913.

52 — Robert J. Baron's Promises Fulfilled, Dale Romans, $256,480.

50 — Lowana and Robert e. Low's Magnum Moon, Todd Pletcher, $540,000, and WinStar Farm, China Horse Club International and SF Racing's Quip, Rodolphe Brisset, $212,000.

40 — Karl Watson, Michael Pegram and Paul Weitman's McKinzie, Bob Baffert, $320,000.

34 — e Five Thoroughbred Racing and Stonestreet Stables' Good Magic, Chad Brown, $1.2 million, and Zayat Stables' Solomini, Bob Baffert, $516,000.

30 — John C. Oxley's Flameaway, Mark Casse, $472,260.

29 — Mr. Amore Stable's Firenze Fire, Jason Servis, $582,500.

24 — Albaugh Family Stables LLC's Free Drop Billy, Dale Romans, $497,200

22 — Bloom Racing Stable's Snapper Sinclair, Steve Asmussen, $301,810, and Winchell Thoroughbreds and Willis Horton's Combatant, $300,000.

20 — Courtlandt Farm's Strike Power, Mark Hennig, $199,560 and Fred J. Brei's Old Time Revival, Kenneth Decker, $80,000.

19 — OXO Equine LLC's Instilled Regard, Jerry Hollendorfer, $196,000

14 — Robert V. LaPenta and Madaket Stable LLC's Catholic Boy, Jonathan Thomas, $330,000 and Godolphin's Avery Island, Kiaran McLaughlin, $320,000, and Don't Tell My Wife Stables and Monomoy Stables' My Boy Jack, Keith Desormeaux, $402,000.

See more Equestrian news at www.TAPintoHorses.net

Find us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/TAPintoHorses/

Sign Up for E-News to get top stories delivered daily to your inbox.

Download the FREE TAPinto App! Click here for Android - Click here for iOS to get news as it is happening.