HOT SPRINGS, AR – Robert and Lawana Low’s Magnum Moon grabbed the lead through the far turn and drew off convincingly down the stretch, eclipsing his foes in front of a record crowd to win Saturday’s Grade 2, $900,000 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park.
Breaking sharply from post 4 under Luis Saez, Magnum Moon was part of the front-running group heading into the first turn that ultimately saw Title Ready come away with the lead. The pack remained tightly-clenched down the backside and into the far turn through splits of :23.42, :47.15, and 1:11.26. Commencing a three-wide move at the 5/16-pole, Magnum Moon hit the top of the stretch in the clear by 2 1/2 lengths. With nothing but sunshine in front of him, Magnum Moon drew off with authority, hitting the wire first by 3 1/2 lengths in a final time of 1:42.68 for the 8 1/2-furlong event.
“He was traveling pretty good,” Saez said. “He broke good and was in the right spot. When he came to the stretch, he just kept running and never stopped. That horse is a pretty good horse. He proved today that he can really run. Let’s see, hopefully everything will be going good for the Arkansas Derby.”
Even-money favorite Solomini, running for the first time since crossing first in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity last fall, was even with the winner for much of the race before attempting to split between Title Ready and the rail through the far turn. As Magnum Moon began passing Title Ready to the outside, the fading leader drifted inward ever so slightly, forcing Solomini to steady. That move didn’t stop him completely, though, and he was able to re-rally to take second by a head over a late-closing Combatant.
Title Ready faded to fourth, 3/4 of a length in front of Sporting Chance. Coming into the Rebel, Saez had his choice of mounts, having steered Sporting Chance to an impressive third-place finish in the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes here last month. For Saez, the decision was not easy, but it proved to be correct.
“We took like two weeks to make that decision,” he said. “I always thought this horse was going to be a good horse. I love Sporting Chance, he’s a very good horse. But we decide to ride him today, and he proved he’s a good horse.”
Zing Zang was bumped early and blocked at the 1/8-pole, possibly preventing him from putting forth his usual late bid and forcing him to settle for sixth. High North, Higher Power, Pryor, and Curlin’s Honor completed the order of finish.
The Rebel is part of the Road to the 2018 Kentucky Derby prep race season. Magnum Moon earned 50 points for the win, with Solomini receiving 20 for second, Combatant 10 for third, and Title Ready 5 for fourth.
Magnum Moon’s win kept him undefeated in three career starts. A Keeneland Sales graduate bred by Ramona Bass of Claiborne Farm, the son of Malibu Moon has now earned $577,800 after similarly dominating performances in his debut at Gulfstream Park on January 13 and allowance company at Tampa Bay Downs on February 15.
“We felt like we had a very talented colt,” Pletcher said. “Very pleased with his first two races, but this was a step up in class and running against accomplished, seasoned colts. We were confident that he was training very well, coming into it in great shape, and just hoping he could handle the continued rise in class.”
Magnum Moon returned $8 to win, $3.60 to place, and $3 to show. Solomini brought back $2.80 to place and $2.40 to show, while Combatant paid $3.20 to show.