June 28, 2022

Magnum Moon overwhelms Rebel foes in third start

Like stablemate Malagacy last year, Magnum Moon was victorious in the Rebel (G2) in just his third career start (Holly Smith photo)

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. — Trainer Todd Pletcher has a new contender for the Kentucky Derby (G1) in Magnum Moon, who successfully stepped up to stakes company Saturday at Oaklawn Park, winning the $900,000 Rebel (G2) comfortably over 11-10 favorite Solomini.

Fitting the profile of Pletcher’s 2017 Rebel winner Malagacy, Magnum Moon entered the Rebel off two starts, one in a January maiden and the other in a February allowance. The relative inexperience proved no hurdle for the 3-1 second choice in a field of 10.

A head in front passing the finish the first time, Magnum Moon soon settled into a stalking position under jockey Luis Saez. Three-wide down the backside in third, Magnum Moon was never more than a couple lengths from pacesetter Title Ready, who led through fractions of :23.42 and :47.15, with Curlin’s Honor between them. Solomini, meanwhile, saved ground near the inside in fourth, with Sporting Chance four wide outside Magnum Moon.

Around the far turn, Title Ready continued to lead while Magnum Moon assumed second when Curlin’s Honor backed out. Solomini was in contention, too, but came under a drive approaching the stretch. Soon after Title Ready clicked off three-quarters in 1:11.26, Magnum Moon responded to Saez’s encouragement and quickly took over passing the quarter pole.

In the stretch, the son of Malibu Moon scooted clear and was never in serious danger thereafter, coasting under the wire a 3 1/2-length winner. The race was for second as Title Ready hung tough on the rail before yielding late to Solomini and Combatant, who were separated by a head at the finish. Title Ready ran fourth, 1 1/2 lengths behind Combatant. The order of finish was completed by Sporting Chance, Zing Zang, High North, Higher Power, Pryor, and Curlin’s Honor.

Owned by Robert and Lawana Low, Magnum Moon paid $8 after completing 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.68 before an estimated crowd of 37,500. He earned 50 qualifying points for the Derby as part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, essentially clinching a spot in the starting gate. Solomini earned 20 points, Combatant 10, and Title Ready five.

Magnum Moon debuted at Gulfstream Park on January 13, winning a six-furlong maiden by 4 1/2 lengths. Shipped to Tampa Bay Downs for a February 15 allowance at one mile and 40 yards, he prevailed by two lengths as the 1-10 favorite.

“We felt the timing perspective worked out for very well for him,” said Pletcher regarding his decision to send Magnum Moon to the Rebel. “When we went to the allowance race at Tampa, we were hoping he would perform well enough there to earn a spot into the Rebel.”

Pletcher said a return trip to next month’s Arkansas Derby (G1) would be “the mostly likely, most logical,” spot for Magnum Moon’s next start, but as is customary would evaluate him after his return to Palm Beach Downs. His career earnings now stand at $577,800.

Bred in Kentucky by Ramona Bass, Magnum Moon was a $380,000 Keeneland September yearling. Out of Dazzling Song, by Unbridled’s Song, his second dam was Grade 3 winner Win McCool and his third dam the Grade 3-winning Win Crafty Lady, who also reared Grade 1 winner Harmony Lodge and Arkansas Derby (G2) hero Graeme Hall.