Sumaya U.S. Stables’ Malagacy pulled off yet another victory on Saturday to move his record to a perfect three-for-three. This time the Todd Pletcher trainee was making his stakes debut in the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) and triumphed by two lengths with regular rider Javier Castellano in the irons.
Uncontested set the pace through early splits of :23.03, :47.04 and 1:11.35 while tracked by Malagacy to his outside. The Smarty Jones Stakes winner had no answer, though, when Malagacy moved up to challenge on the final turn.
Malagacy easily took control and pulled off to score in a final time of 1:43 for 1 1/16 miles over Oaklawn Park’s fast main track. He paid $8.60 as the 3-1 second choice.
The win catapulted Malagacy to fourth on the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard by awarding him 50 points toward a starting berth in the May 6 Kentucky Derby (G1). The Rebel is part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series of points races and was worth 50-20-10-5 points to the respective top four finishers.
Earning 20 points for his second-place run was maiden and 112-1 longshot Sonneteer, who now sits in 14th on the Leaderboard. Sonneteer managed to nose out Risen Star Stakes (G2) and Lecomte Stakes (G3) runner-up Untrapped, who took home 10 points and moved into seventh on the Leaderboard with 34 total points.
It was another nose back to Petrov, who entered this one off a second in the Southwest Stakes (G3) and added five points to bring his total to 13, good for 18th position on the Leaderboard.
Silver Dust followed in fifth and completing the order of finish were Lookin at Lee, Appalachian Gem, Uncontested, Royal Mo, 8-5 favorite American Anthem and Silver Bullion.
Malagacy broke his maiden by 15 lengths on January 4 going 5 1/2 furlongs and took an allowance/optional claimer at 6 1/2 furlongs on February 12, both at Gulfstream Park. He earned triple-digit BRIS Speed ratings for those efforts and now boasts $586,800 in career earnings after successfully stretching out.
Bred in Kentucky by John Trumbulovic, Malagacy is by Shackleford, who ran fourth in the Kentucky Derby, captured the Preakness Stakes (G1) next and rounded out his 2011 Triple Crown bid with a fifth in the Belmont Stakes (G1). Malagacy is out of the unraced Dehere mare Classiest Gem, who is a half-sister to Canadian champion Impossible Time.
Todd Pletcher, trainer Malagacy, winner
“He showed today that he can definitely go around two turns and I am very proud of him. He showed good tactical speed yet he rated very kindly, which we thought he would do. We were trying a new distance and he was stepping up in class against some nice, seasoned horses so I was very, very pleased with and proud of his effort.
“We wanted to make sure we got to the first turn in good position. He didn't break super sharply but he was able to recover pretty quickly and get himself into pretty much the spot where we thought he would be, which was tracking Uncontested. The first quarter was solid but then they kind of slowed it down in the second quarter and it was a good honest pace from there on out.
“He was so impressive in his first two starts that (sending him to the Rebel) wasn't a question of talent. it was just a question of handling different things and one of those was shipping from his Florida base to Hot Springs, and he handled that well. Of course, the other questions were stretching out around two turns and stepping up into graded stakes company. We were very confident in the way the horse was training. He had been training very well. He had shown us in his breezes that the added distance wouldn't be an issue but we just don't don't know until they do it. There's some stamina in his pedigree, but he's also a very quick and a very fast horse.
“The great thing he's got going for him is a beautiful disposition and he's very ratable and he's fast. That's a great combination to have.
“The (April 15) Arkansas Derby (G1) would be the logical next step. We'll bring him home tomorrow to Palm Beach Downs and see how he bounces out of it. The Arkansas Derby timing wise would be good, and getting a mile-and-an-eighth race under his belt would also be beneficial. That would be Plan A, but in this business we all know that sometimes you have to call some audibles. Right now that's what the thinking is.”
Javier Castellano, jockey Malagacy, winner
“He doesn’t do anything wrong, very impressive the way he did it today. I rode with a lot of confidence. He’s such a great horse. Every single race he’s been impressive. Todd (Pletcher), he did a great job with the horse, going long and stepping up in class and he still showed up and won the race. I give all the credit to Mr. Pletcher.”
Now that he’s run two turns, what is he better at? Sprinting or going long?
“The way he did it today, very impressive, I think there’s no question he likes to go far. He’s well bred, and he has a good trainer and is a joy to ride.”
Keith Desormeaux, trainer Sonneteer, second
“I’m not going to stand here and say that I knew he could do it when he’s sitting there at 100-1, which I can understand. But, the horse has been running quality races in California against quality competition. I love the setup, backing up to seven-eighths and then stretching out again. And physically he was doing so well, I had to give him a shot. Plus with the encouragement of Mr. Brad Kelley with Calumet Farm, we had to do it.”
Agreed that with timing to Kentucky Derby couldn’t wait on him trying to knock out that maiden win.
“He showed glimpses with his physical appearance and the way he works effortlessly in a class manner. There’s only one Derby, only one time of year to prep them for the Derby. It was time to prove it.
“We got a favorable trip along the rail. It looks like (jockey Richard) Eramia thought about coming out and opted to stay on the rail. He was getting kind of bogged down, and then the horse to his outside bumped him. Richard said he rebroke when he got bumped, so that’s a nice sign.”
Said he’d been thrilled if had lost photo for second.
“You know it. We just improved the value of the mare that I’m sure Mr. Kelley owns. She’s now graded-stakes placed. Thing is, she was a nose of being away from being fourth. So we got lucky. There’s a lot of luck involved, but the horse also earned it.”
Said Arkansas Derby is quite possible “but there is going to be some discussion. We’ll see how he comes back. But the horse has always been very resilient. He holds his weight and is a good doer.”
Richard Eramia, jockey Sonneteer, second
“This horse ran big. The race setup perfect for him, because there was a lot of speed in the race and it was a really tough race. I watch all the replays of this horse and he tries hard every race, and when you get a horse that will try this hard he will run some good races.”
Steve Asmussen, trainer Untrapped (third), Lookin at Lee (sixth)
“Untrapped looked like he showed the effects of me wheeling him back. He got a little light late, but he’s a good horse. We’ll plan on staying here for the Arkansas Derby with him. Lookin at Lee, I’ll weigh between the Arkansas Derby and the (April 8) Blue Grass (Stakes [G2]), with him having run well in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) there last fall (at Keeneland).”
It was noted that he was third in the Rebel last year with Creator, who went on to win the Arkansas Derby and Belmont Stakes (G1)
“You’re right. Part of it is it’s hard to be good enough, and it’s really hard to stay around. Both of these horses have been very durable and sound to this point. I think Untrapped will appreciate a little more time between races, but you watch the replay and I’ll debate whether putting blinkers on him or not. You can see where he dropped the bridle down the backside, and it forced him to start holding position. But it was his first race here, and the kickback being different. I’ll see how he trains, that is an option (blinkers). And Lookin at Lee, I think he just needs more ground.”
Mike Langford, owner Untrapped, third
“I think three weeks is what I got us. We did a lot in three weeks. He ran a career (BRIS Speed figure of 96 when second in the February 25 Risen Star at Fair Grounds) and came back here. That’s asking a lot. He ran great. At the top of the lane, I thought he was going to win, to be honest with you.”
Irad Ortiz Jr., jockey Untrapped, jockey
“He ran well. He ran so well. He got beat by a good horse, but he was moving well and did everything right. He is a nice horse I think.”
Ron Moquett, trainer Petrov, fourth
“Not the trip I wanted. We don't get a chance to ever get clear. We get banged around there and we get beat for second by a nose. You don't want to run fourth when you run second by a nose.”
Jose Ortiz, jockey Petrov, fourth
“I think we got a good trip. When I hit the quarter pole I felt like I had a lot of horse. I tried to keep up and follow Javier, and I had enough room. As soon as we entered the stretch he switch leads and I had plenty of room to go on and he just stayed steady there. Tough beat for second getting beat by a head.”
Jimmy Barnes, assistant trainer American Anthem, 10th as favorite
“I don't know. The horse, he just struggled. He didn't break as sharp as I thought he would. Had a lot of speed in the race, also. (Jockey) Mikey (Smith) just said he struggled a bit with the track. Regroup and head back to California and keep searching for a Derby horse.”
Mike Smith, jockey American Anthem, 10th
“Slipped really bad leaving there in behind and stayed that way the whole race. Just struggled for whatever reason. I was OK as long as we were all slow. As soon as we had to pick it up, I would give him his head, legs just went everywhere.”