Robert and Lawana Low’s Magnum Moon remained perfect in four career starts and clinched a start in the May 5 Kentucky Derby (GI) on Saturday with an impressive wire-to-wire score by four lengths in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (GI) on the track’s closing day card. The Todd Pletcher-trained son of Malibu Moon picked up 100 points go with his 50 from winning the Rebel Stakes (GII) on March 17 and he now sits as the top point-getter with a total of 150 points, 16 more than champion and Blue Grass Stakes (GII) winner Good Magic.
Ridden by Luis Saez, Magnum Moon was the 4-5 favorite and returned $3.60, $2.80 and $2.40. Runner-up Quip paid $4.40 and $3.40 at odds of more than 6-1, while 5-2 chance Solomini, who was a neck farther back in third, paid $2.60. The exacta returned $9.40 and the 50-cent trifecta was worth $13.60.
Combatant, Tenfold, Plainsman, Dream Baby Dream, Beautiful Shot and Machismo rounded out the order of finish.
After a clean break, Malibu Moon sped to the front and never looked back, posting splits of of :23.34 and :48.60 for the first half-mile, while being shadowed to his outside by Quip.
Magnum Moon was still in front as Quip challenged past three-quarters in 1:13.39, but he soon shook free and, right after posting a mile in 1:37.87, started to drift out toward the center of the track in deep stretch. The odd behavior was of little concern, as he easily continued on to the win, successfully holding the late charge from Quip, Solomini and Combatant at the wire.
The final time for the nine-furlong fast main track test was 1:49.86.
“I thought it was very good,” Plethcer said of the race. “I’m very pleased with the outcome. A little concerned that he drifted out the last part, but it looked like he sort of halfway thought about jumping over the tire marks when he went the by the eighth pole where the gate was and sort of skipped over those. I think he was maybe just drifting away from that. Aside from that, I thought he finished with good energy and was pulling away from some nice horses. He showed his versatility. He’s won a number of different ways now and I think he’s proven that he’s the kind of horse that doesn’t need the race to unfold a certain way — that he’s able to kind of make his own race.”
Quip, who earned 40 points for second and also makes the Derby gate with a total of 90, while Solomini earned 20 points and is 12th to get in with a total of 54.
Magnum Moon, who was bred in Kentucky by Ramona Bass and was purchased by his current owners for $380,000 as Keeneland September yearling, has now banked $1,777,800. He is out of the unraced Unbridled’s Song mare Dazzling Song.
Magnum Moon, along with likely Derby favorite Justify, will attempt to break the streak in racing known as “Apollo’s Curse,” which holds that no horse that hasn’t raced as a 2-year-old has won the Run for the Roses since Apollo in 1882.
Magnum Moon first raced on January 13 of this year. He will return to Palm Beach Downs on Sunday and tentatively fly to Louisville on April 23, meaning he breeze once at Churchill Downs before the Derby.