Top 3 for the 144th Kentucky Derby
One of the most impressive Kentucky Derby prep race winners was Mendelssohn, who captured the $2 million UAE Derby March 31 at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai. The win was Mendelssohn’s third straight for top Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien, who has had one of the best career’s in racehorse-training history. O’Brien conditioned Mendelssohn on the turf and won the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) in a stalking 1 mile trip at Del Mar Nov. 3, 2017.
Kentucky-bred Menelssohn is well-traveled, breaking his maiden Curragh in Ireland, then 7th at Doncaster in England, 2nd at Newmarket in Great Britain before winning at Del Mar in California three weeks later in the Breeders’ Cup. His 3-year-old campaign started with a win at Dundalk in the 1 mile Patton Stakes over a Polytrack March 9 before his dominating front-running victory in the UAE Derby in Dubai, his dirt debut.
Mendelssohn is bred for dirt, and he’s a half-brother to four-time champion Beholder, and his sire Scat Daddy won the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby (G1) before finishing 18th in the Kentucky Derby as the third betting choice. Scat Daddy was injured running in the Kentucky Derby, which was his final race. Scat Daddy’s sire was Johannesburg, who won 7-of-10 races and was also trained by Aidan O’Brien. Johannesburg was O’Brien’s most prized Kentucky Derby horse, but finished 8th as one of the top-4 wagering interests.
Mendelssohn will be O’Brien’s 6th Kentucky Derby runner, and he looks like he’s the best-ever Derby contender for O’Brien, who is seeking his first Kentucky Derby victory.
Mendelssohn was the highest-priced American yearling of 2016, a staggering $3 million purchase. He is out of the 2016’s Broodmare of the Year, Leslie’s Lady (Tricky Creek), who produced Beholder and Into Mischief, the champion sire of 2-year-olds in 2016 and 3-year-olds in 2017.
Mendelssohn is a strong Kentucky Derby entrant that will be priced below a number of the other top contenders. He’s 10-1 in the final Kentucky Derby Future Wager pool. Many will be concerned with other 3-year-olds poor Kentucky Derby performances after winning the UAE Derby. Of the nine UAE Derby winners that have attempted the Derby double since 2000, the best finish for any of them was 6th place in the Kentucky Derby.
Last year’s UAE Derby winner Thunder Snow bucked badly at the start of the Derby and did not finish. He did however progress well and just won the Dubai World Cup.
Having already made a triumphant trip to the U.S. in the Breeders’ Cup, Mendelssohn and his mount Ryan Moore are a magnificent double M combination worth supporting with some money in the Kentucky Derby.
Good Magic was the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) winner at Del Mar following a runner-up finish in the Champagne Stakes (G1) at Belmont behind Firenze Fire and just ahead of Enticed, both Kentucky Derby qualifiers. Following a 3rd place finish in the Fountain of Youth (G2) as the heavy favorite, Good Magic showed his championship class by taking command in the stretch and holding sway over Flameway to win the $1 million Blue Grass Stakes (G2) and Keeneland April 7. That victory made Good Magic the leader in the Kentucky Derby Points standings with 134 points heading into the Kentucky Derby May 5 at Churchill Downs.
Ridden by Jose Ortiz, Good Magic was the 8-5 favorite in the 15-horse field and won the 1 1/8 mile Blue Grass in 1:50.18. Good Magic is now 2-2-1 in five starts with earnings of $1,855,000. The champion 2-year-old of 2017 was purchased for $1 million at the 2016 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
Trained by Chad Brown, Good Magic is a son of Curlin, the 2-time Horse of the Year who competed with distinction in all three 2007 Triple Crown races. He finished 3rd in the Kentucky Derby, won the Preakness and finished 2nd in the Belmont Stakes before winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic that same year. Curlin has become a powerhouse source of stamina, and the Smart Strike stallion has produced a classic winner or classic-placed runner from each of his first five crops, beginning with 2013 Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice.
Good Magic’s dam, Glinda the Good, a daughter of Curlin’s old racetrack rival Hard Spun, scored all her wins at a mile or longer. The mare is a half-sister to several stakes winners and producers, and this female family has been a successful cross with Curlin.
In pool 4, the last of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager pools, Good Magic closed at 9-1, behind Justify, Mendelssohn, Audible and Magnum Moon. This will be a talented and tightly-bunched group of Kentucky Derby contenders, with many well-bred challengers like Good Magic looking to capture the roses in the Kentucky Derby.
Last year’s Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Todd Pletcher will have four horses running in the Kentucky Derby, and the most recent major Derby prep winner Magnum Moon won his fourth-straight race to start his career by capturing the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 14 at Oaklawn Park. Magnum Moon earned 100 points and completed the Derby prep season No. 1 on the leaderboard with 150 points as he also won the Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn on March 17.
Ridden by Luis Saez, Magnum Moon ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.86, going gate to wire and pulling away in the stretch to win by 4 lengths over Quip and Solomini, both Kentucky Derby qualifiers. Magnum Moon was a heavy 4-5 favorite and paid $3.60 in winning the Arkansas Derby.
Magnum Moon was a debut winner at Gulfstream in January posting a 99 BRIS Speed figure. He then came from off the pace to win an allowance races at 1-5 odds at Tampa Bay Downs in February. Pletcher than gave the Malibu Moon colt his first stakes try, and it was another success, going clear and pulling away in the stretch to defeat the favorite Solomini by more than 3 lengths in the Rebel while posting a 100 BRIS Speed figure.
The Arkansas Derby solidified Magnum Moon as one of the Derby favorites, and he’ll have to buck history to win the 2018 Kentucky Derby. No horse since Apollo in 1882 has won the Kentucky Derby without a start as a 2-year-old, but Magnum Moon will attempt to break the ‘Curse of Apollo’ on May 5 when he makes his Run for the Roses. He’ll also try to become the fourth winner of the Rebel and Arkansas Derby to capture the Kentucky Derby, following Sunny’s Halo (1983), Smarty Jones (2004) and American Pharoah (2015).
Bred in Kentucky, Magnum Moon was a $380,000 Keeneland September Yearling purchase in 2016 by Robert and Lawana Low. Malibu Moon, a son of A.P. Indy who has followed in his sire’s hoofprints by producing route runners, is the sire of 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb. The A.P. Indy sireline is responsible over the past five years alone in the classics for Tapit, represented by three Belmont Stakes winners in the last four years, and Lucky Pulpit, the sire of dual classic winner and Breeders’ Cup Classic champion California Chrome.
Magnum Moon is clearly among the most talented sophomores in training. He handled the 1 1/8 mile distance without issue in winning the Arkansas Derby, and looks like he has the speed, stamina, pedigree and profile of a classic champion.