An undefeated colt sired by Malibu Moon, Magnum Moon is a serious contender for the 144th edition of the Kentucky Derby. With four wins in as many starts, Magnum Moon has beaten the following 3-year olds:
- Solomini: Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up
- Combatant: Grade 3 Southwest Stakes runner-up
- Sporting Chance: Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes winner
- High North: $150,000 Northern Spur Stakes winner
- Quip: Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby winner
Three of the above-listed horses are currently in the projected Derby field (Solomini, Combatant, and Quip).
Jockey Luis Saez has had the mount for all four of Magnum Moon’s starts and will maintain it for the Derby. He’s an excellent rider, especially on the lead, as we saw in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby. Luckily for Saez, this is a transitional, versatile colt; prior to winning the Arkansas Derby on the lead, he sat just off the leader in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes, and before that, came from off the pace in an allowance event at Tampa Bay Downs. This type of racing style is incredibly valuable because of the many factors that can affect a race like the Kentucky Derby, such as post position and pace setup.
Magnum Moon’s pedigree seems to favor the added distance. Among his many top offspring (including Declan’s Moon, Gormley, Farrell, Stanford, and Mr. Z), Malibu Moon sired Orb, the 2013 Kentucky Derby champion. Malibu Moon himself is out of the proven sire A.P. Indy, winner of the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes, and the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic, all in 1992. Unbridled’s Song, sire of Magnum Moon’s dam Dazzling Song, also adds stamina and class: before running fifth in the 1996 Kentucky Derby, he won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, the Grade 1 Florida Derby, and the Grade 2 Wood Memorial.
Magnum Moon was unraced until January 13 of his 3-year-old year, so the dreaded Curse of Apollo is constantly brought up (for context, no horse has won the Kentucky Derby as an unraced 2-year-old since Apollo in 1882). While that’s quite the statistic, this crop could very well break it. As it stands right now, the top two betting choices according to Vegas Insider will be horses that were unraced at 2 (Justify at 5-2 and Magnum Moon at 4-1). Don’t be surprised if the Todd Pletcher trainee’s odds float a little higher than his current price because his Arkansas Derby finish was a little disappointing (he floated considerably wide after the gate tracks startled him). However, he still won rather easily, so it’s tough to hold that against him.
My main concern with Magnum Moon is the competition that he’s faced. The horses that he’s consistently beaten have not accomplished much:
- Solomini seems to have peaked in his 2-year-old campaign
- Combatant is that Lookin At Lee-type of horse that always runs on for a piece but can never quite get over the hump
- Sporting Chance showed some promise as a 2-year-old when winning the Hopeful, but since then, he’s been disqualified for bumping other horses more times than he has hit the board
- High North finished fourth in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, but he never really threatened in his two Derby prep starts
- Quip seems to be the only legitimate foe that Magnum Moon has defeated, winning the Tampa Bay Derby over Vino Rosso (winner of the Wood Memorial) and Flameaway (runner-up in the Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes).
Reports have confirmed that Magnum Moon shipped back to Florida after his Arkansas Derby win and will fly up to Churchill Downs around two weeks before the Derby. The next thing to keep an eye on will be his training over the Churchill Downs track, and not soon after, the post-position draw (Tuesday, May 1) for the Kentucky Derby, where Magnum Moon is sure to be a major contender.