Magnum Moon Now 3-for-3 with Rebel Win and Earns Spot in Kentucky Derby
There were five quality contenders in the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park Saturday, and the winner was looking to secure his spot in the starting gate for the 2018 Kentucky Derby. All five of the contenders finished first through fifth, and it was Magnum Moon who proved best and winning by 3 ½ lengths over the race favorite, Solomini. Combatant closed from the back to finish 3rd while pacesetter Title Ready faded to fourth followed closely by Sporting Chance.
Magnum Moon earned 50 points towards qualifying for the Kentucky Derby which is enough to participate in the Run for the Roses. Solomini picked up 20 points and now has 34 Derby points, likely right near the cut line for what will be needed to finish top-20 on the points list to qualify for the Kentucky Derby. Bob Baffert trains Solomini and could have three colts running in the Kentucky Derby, joining McKinzie and rising star Justify, an intriguing presence on the Derby trail who did not race as a 2-year-old and needs a top-2 finish in his final Derby prep in the Santa Anita Derby.
Magnum Moon was also unraced as a 2-year-old, and the Todd Pletcher-trained son of Malibu Moon will try to break the curse of Apollo, who was the last horse in 1892 to win the Kentucky Derby without racing as a 2-year-old.
Against a solid group of nine challengers in the 1 1/16-mile Rebel, Magnum Moon (3-1) settled in behind pacesetter Title Ready while Solomini tracked close along the rail. The opening quarter went in :23.42, and Title Ready held the lead at the half-mile in :47.15. Magnum Moon reeled in the pacesetter as they moved around the final turn.
“He was traveling pretty good,” said winning jockey Luis Saez, who gave up the mount on Sporting Chance to ride Magnum Moon in the Rebel. “He broke good and was in the right spot. When he came to the stretch, he just kept running and never stopped. He proved today that he can really run.”
Magnum Moon cruised down the lane and went clear in the stretch to win by 3 ½ lengths in a final 1 1/16 mile time of 1:42.68, which is the fastest Rebel since 2011. Magnum Moon recorded a solid Beyer Speed Figure of 97 in victory to return $8.00 for the win. Solomini had a BSF of 92.
Magnum Moon will likely run next in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1), a major 1 1/8 mile Derby prep race on April 14 at Oaklawn. Pletcher says it’s “the most likely and logical spot’ to run him next.
“We felt like we had a very talented colt,” Pletcher said. “(We were) 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 hoped he could handle the continued rise in class.”