Magnum Moon wins Arkansas Derby to become Kentucky Derby points leader

Apr 15, 2018 Ed DeRosa/

Magnum Moon went gate-to-wire, and to the top of the Kentucky Derby (G1) Leaderboard, in winning the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) on Saturday at Oaklawn Park.

The win – worth 100 of the Arkansas Derby’s 170 points – gives Magnum Moon 150 points for the Road to the Kentucky Derby series. Pletcher has now won four of the seven Part 2 (170-point) races in the series.

“Hard to imagine having a better month,” Pletcher said. “We’re blessed to have the equine and human talent to make it happen. Hopefully everyone stays healthy the next three weeks and we’ll fire our best shots at Churchill Downs.”

Magnum Moon had won his three previous starts pressing the pace, but went to the lead under jockey Luis Saez. He was never more than a length ahead of Quip through fractions of :23.34, :48.60, and 1:13.39 before opening up in the stretch and defeating that rival by four lengths with a final furlong in :11.99.

“I was very pleased with the effort,” Pletcher said. “He showed us yet another dimension by going to the lead. I was a little concern he drifted late, but it looked like he spooked at the tire tracks at the eighth pole. He was pulling away from some nice horses.”

“That wasn’t fatigue,” owner Robert Low said. “This horse can run as far as we want him to. He shied away from the tire tracks.

“What I was worried about watching the race was that he went to the lead; my heart just sank. I thought, ‘Oh, no, this is new territory,’ but he’s a smart horse and figured it out, and (jockey Luis Saez) rode him great.”

The points for the second- and third-place finishes – 40 and 20, respectively – are enough to get both Quip and Solomini, separated by a neck on the Oaklawn wire, into the Kentucky Derby, should their connections pursue that path.

“The race set up where we thought maybe we’d end up on the lead, but I thought (jockey Florent Geroux) did right to get a good spot,” said Quip’s trainer, Rodolphe Brisset. “He tried hard, and it was encouraging to see him run on and stay second. We’ll give him a day or two before coming up with a plan.”

It was another head back to Combatant in fourth. The 10 points give Combatant 32, which ranks him 20th behind Firenze Fire with 39 (the top 19 by points get in with the other spot going to the European Road to the Kentucky Derby winner – in this case Gronkowski).

Pletcher said that Magnum Moon would return to his Palm Beach Downs base before joining Louisiana Derby (G2) winner Noble Indy, Wood Memorial (G2) victor Vino Rosso and Florida Derby (G1) scorer Audible on an April 23 flight to Churchill Downs. Pletcher expects each of his Kentucky Derby starters to have one workout in Louisville, Kentucky, ahead of the May 5 Kentucky Derby.

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