The “most likely and most logical spot” for Robert and Lawana Low’s Magnum Moon is the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 14 at Oaklawn, trainer Todd Pletcher said following the unbeaten colt’s impressive victory in Saturday’s $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2).
Magnum Moon, who was making his stakes debut, recorded a 3 ½-length victory over favored Solomini and secured a spot in the Kentucky Derby May 5 at Churchill Downs.
Ridden by Luis Saez, Magnum Moon ($8) covered 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.68, making it the fastest Rebel since Smarty Jones – stretching his unbeaten streak to five – ran 1:42.07 in 2004.
Magnum Moon (3 for 3) earned 50 points for his victory and ranks fifth on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard, according to a news release Saturday from Churchill Downs. The Kentucky Derby is limited to 20 starters, with starting preference given to horses with the highest point totals in designated races like the Rebel, if the race overfills.
Pletcher assistant Ginny DePasquale said Sunday morning that Magnum Moon and stablemate Hedge Fund emerged from their victories in good order. Hedge Fund was a front-running winner of the $300,000 Essex Handicap for older horses about 80 minutes before the Rebel.
“They both came back very well,” said DePasquale, who saddled the horses in Pletcher’s absence. “Both came back in good shape.”
Magnum Moon is scheduled to be flown back to his south Florida base Monday, but DePasquale said the flight may be delayed until Tuesday.
If Magnum Moon returns for the Arkansas Derby, Pletcher would be following the same script he did last year with Malagacy, who, in his stakes debut, won the Rebel in his third career start. Malagacy finished fifth in the Arkansas Derby. Neither Malagacy or Magnum Moon raced at 2.
A son of Malibu Moon, Magnum Moon has earned $577,800 for the Lows, who live in Springfield, Mo., and previously won Oaklawn stakes races with trainers Dan Peitz and Steve Margolis.
Sporting Chance emerged in good order from his fifth-place finish in the Rebel, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said Sunday morning, and will be pointed for the Arkansas Derby.
A Grade 1 winner at 2, Sporting Chance was beaten 5 ¾ lengths after an outside stalking trip under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez.
“It’s hard for me to handle that one because I thought I had him trained to the minute,” Lukas said. “I really felt like he would run a monster race, and he didn’t. He flattened out a little bit. He had a decent trip. I was disappointed in him. Don’t have a lot of explanations, but he did come back good.”
Sporting Chance ranks 38th on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with the two points he earned from a third-place finish in the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 19.
The Southwest was Oaklawn’s second of four major Kentucky Derby prep races, a series that concludes with the Arkansas Derby. The Arkansas Derby will offer 170 points to the top four finishers toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby (100-40-20-10).
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