HOT SPRINGS, AR – Robert and Lawana Low’s Magnum Moon maintained his spotless record with a monstrous performance in Saturday’s Grade 1, $1,000,000 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park, becoming only the 11th horse in 43 years to win both the Arkansas Derby and the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes.
Breaking from post 6 as the 4-5 favorite under Luis Saez, Magnum Moon beat Quip to the lead heading into the first turn, then set splits of :23.34, :48.60, and 1:13.39. With Quip looming up to his right hip as they entered the far turn, Saez still sat chilly aboard his steed, waiting until he had a 2-length lead at the top of the stretch to let him go. When he did, Magnum Moon suddenly shifted out into the seven-path (possibly spooked by the starting gate), though with such a lead built up, he was far enough in front didn’t impede or interfere with any foes. Once Saez straightened him out, Magnum Moon exploded with force, surging to the wire to win by 4 lengths in a final time of 1:49.86 for the 1 1/8-mile dirt event.
“I thought there was going to be a little speed,” Saez said. “We were in a good position (and) he broke really sharp. I’m not going to choke him, I am just going to stay there, and he was very comfortable into the turn; he was traveling pretty good. When I came to the stretch, I felt like he was looking at the gate marks, so when we got there, I touched him a little, and he went.”
A four-way photo finish for second was ultimately awarded to Quip, with Solomini taking third by a head over Combatant, and Tenfold a neck further in fifth. Plainsman took sixth ahead of Dream Baby Dream, while Beautiful Shot and Machismo completed the order of finish.
The Arkansas Derby is part of the Road to the 2018 Kentucky Derby prep race season. Magnum Moon earned 100 points for the win, with Quip receiving 40 for second, Solomini 20 for third, and Combatant 10 for fourth.
Magnum Moon’s victory was his fourth in as many career starts, all in 2018, for trainer Todd Pletcher. The 3-year-old son of Malibu Moon has now earned $1,177,800 and will likely be a close second in Kentucky Derby betting favoritism behind the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby winner Justify.
“I thought it (his race) was very good,” Pletcher said. “Very pleased with the outcome. A little concerned that he drifted out the last part, but it looked liked he sort of halfway thought about jumping over the tire marks when he went by the 1/8 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.”
Magnum Moon returned $3.60 to win, $2.80 to place, and $2.40 to show. Quip brought back $4.40 to place and $3.40 to show, while Solomini paid $2.60 to show.