Malagacy improved his record to 3-for-3 winning the March 18 Rebel (G2) at Oaklawn Park and likely guaranteed himself a berth in the Kentucky Derby field by earning 50 points in his first qualifying race.
Trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by Javier Castellano, the chestnut colt looked good visually posting a two-length decision in his two-turn debut, tracking the pace in second before surging to the lead in upper stretch, but Malagacy received only a 95 BRIS Speed rating in the 1 1/16-mile race.
That number pales in comparison to his first two starts in one-turn sprints. The son of Shackleford registered a 104 BRIS Speed figure breaking his maiden at 5 ½ furlongs on January 4 and a 103 figure capturing an entry-level allowance at 6 ½ furlongs on February 12. Malagacy won those starts at Gulfstream Park by a combined 22 lengths.
The lower number is a concern – Malagacy must run faster while continuing to stretch out in distance this spring – but he’s still lightly-raced. The Kentucky-bred is expected to return to Oaklawn for the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby (G1) on April 15 and let’s see if he can show more next time.
One facet that won’t change surrounding Malagacy is his lack of 2-year-old experience. And considering no unraced juvenile has won the Kentucky Derby since Apollo in 1882, he appears to be facing an imposing challenge. Many trends surrounding the Kentucky Derby have been dispelled in recent decades (whether number of career starts, time between races, dirt experience etc) but the “Apollo Jinx” keeps going strong, 135 years and counting.