HOT SPRINGS, Ark. — Lowana and Robert E. Low's Magnum Moon will head for the May 5 running of the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby undefeated after jockey Luis Saez allowed his horse to dictate the tactics used to win the running of Oaklawn Park's $1 million, Grade 1 Arkansas Derby on April 14, the final Derby qualifier.
When the qualifying points were tallied, Magnum Moon was at the top of the list and his trainer, Todd Pletcher, had four colts eligible for for the Derby, In addition to Magnum Moon, he will saddle Audible, the Florida Derby winner, Noble Indy, the Louisiana Derby winner, and Vino Rosso, the Wood Memorial winner.
Saez, who has been aboard Magnum Moon for all four of his wins including Oaklawn's Grade 2 Rebel Stakes in his last outing, shunned attending the pace in the Arkansas Derby. After breaking fifth in the field of nine, the rider reported, “He broke really sharp. I'm not going to choke him.” Thus, Malibu Moon and Saez found themselves on the front end after a quarter mile in a snappy 23.34 seconds.
After repelling a mild challenge five eighths out from Quip, the eventual place horse with Florent Geroux aboard, Magnum Moon and Saez went on to win by four lengths over Quip, the Tampa Bay Derby winner. Solomini, the winner of Los Alamitos' Futurity last year, finished third a neck behind Quip.
The son of Malibu Moon from the Unbridled Song mare Dazzling Song ran the mile and an eighth in 1:49.86 over a fast Oaklawn track.
If there was worry in the Low-Pletcher camp, it was brought about when their colt appeared to drift outward in the stretch. Pletcher dismissed that move explaining Magnum Moon may have been thinking about jumping the tire tracks at the eighth pole. The tracks were left behind when the starting gate was removed and the gate crew did not completely rake out the area.
When asked about his colt's chances in the going forward, the silver-maned trainer said, “I thought he finished with good energy and was pulling away from some nice horses. He showed his versatility.”
And, about the Kentucky Derby, Pletcher said, “He's won a number of different ways now. I think he's proven he's the kind of horse that doesn't need the race to unfold in a certain way, that he's able to make his own race.”
Plans call for Magnum Moon to go back to Palm Beach Downs to prepare for his trip to Louisville. His connections are looking to ship north on April 23 and then get in one breeze over the Churchill Downs surface before the big day.
When he goes to Kentucky, Magnum Moon, who brought breeder Romana Bass $380,000 at the Keeneland September 2016 Yearling Sale, will take with him a record of four for four and earnings of $1.17 million.
Final Derby Point Standings
Here are the final standings of the top 20 horses racing in North America that are qualified for the May 5 running of the Kentucky Derby.
Ties in qualifying points were broken by purse earnings in unrestricted races.
Under the system formulated by Churchill Downs, there is no advantage in qualifying first; nor is there a disadvantage in qualifying 20-th.
Colts and geldings will all carry 126 pounds. Post position will be drawn by 'rolling the pills.'
On April 4, the number of North American qualifiers was reduced to 19. Wins on synthetic surfaces at Kempton Park and New Castle in England have qualified the Kentucky-bred Gronkowski (named after the New England Patriots football star). Trainer Jeremy Noseda has told interviewers he is planning on shipping to Louisville for the Derby.
150 points. Lowanda and Robert E. Magnum Moon, Trained by Todd Pletcher, $1.14 million;
134. E Five Thoroughbreds and Stonestreet's Good Magic, Chad Brown, $1.8 million;
110. China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners, Starlight Racing and WinStar Farm's Audible, Todd Pletcher, $803,520, and WinStar Farm's Noble Indy, Trainer Todd Pletcher, $640,000;
107. Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable's Vino Rosso, Todd Pletcher, $572,500; 104. Ruis Racing's Bolt d'Oro, Mick Ruis, $980,000
103. Godolphin's Enticed, Kiaran McLaughlin, $545,880
100. Smith, Magnier and Taber's Mendelssohn, Aiden O'Brien, $1.94 million, and China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners, Starlight Racing and WinStar Farm's Justify, Bob Baffert, $600,000
90. WinStar Farm, China Horse Club and SF Racing's Quip, Rodolphe Brisset, $412,000
70. John C. Oxley's Flameaway, Mark Casse, $672,260
54. Zayat Stables' Solomini, Bob Baffert, $716,000, and Calumet Farm's Bravazo, D. Wayne Lukas, $349,913
52. Don't Tell My Wife Stable' and Monomoy Stables' My Boy Jack, Keith Desormeaux, $622,000, and Robert J. Baron's Promises Fulfilled, Dale Romans, $266,480
44. Albaugh Family Stables' Free Drop Billy, Dale Romans, 597,200
42. GMB Racing's Lone Sailor, Tom Amoss, $273,347
40. Juddmonte Farms' Hofburg, Bill Mott, $192,000
39. Mr. Amore Stables' Firenze Fire, Jason Service, $647,500.
European Qualifier. Phoenix Thoroughbred III's Gronkowski, Jeremy Noseda, $79,496.
Horses that are not being considered for the Derby for whatever reason are omitted from this list.