To Breaking Records and Curses: Todd Pletcher and Magnum Moon
D. Wayne Lukas once joked,
“We did too good a job with Todd. I knew I shouldn’t have taught him so much.”
Back in the year 2000, Todd Pletcher was campaigning Graeme Hall for the first Saturday in May. The son of Dehere won that year’s Arkansas Derby and then finished an unimpressive 19th in the Kentucky Derby. While it might have been a disappointment for Pletcher to not win the most prestigious race in America, he would finally achieve that dream in 2010 with Super Saver and in 2017 with Always Dreaming. The question is could he do it two years in a row? With a horse who looks as regal in person as he does on paper (and a direct descendant of Graeme Hall through his winning half-sister, Win McCool) and another three in his string dubbed the “fearsome foursome”, I would say that Pletcher has the stars on his side.
Winning the Kentucky Derby two years in a row would put Pletcher in the company of great trainers like Ben and Jimmy Jones, a father-son team that brought Calumet into the golden age of racing with the likes of Citation. Then there are the Triple Crown trainers, Lucien Laurin who is known for the immortal Secretariat and Bob Baffert with the more recent American Pharaoh. D. Wayne Lukas, a former employer, and mentor to Pletcher, is included in those ranks with Silver Charm and Real Quiet. With four prospective runners boasting Derby prep wins in the Wood Memorial, Florida Derby, Lousiana Derby and the recent Arkansas Derby, Pletcher definitely isn’t short of the opportunity.
Of the four probables, the most popular would be Magnum Moon. The son of Malibu Moon arrived on the Derby trail back in January for his maiden start and has been unbeatable since winning his first G1 race at Oaklawn that featured more seasoned horses like Solomini and Combatant in the Arkansas Derby. While the question for Pletcher might be winning the Derby a second time, the question for his green equine trainee will be can the colt compete a more polished crowd and break the curse of Apollo or will his immaturity get in the way of his raw talent? His drift towards the middle of the track as he crossed the wire at Oaklawn has some handicappers scratching their heads and wondering where to put this Pletcher horse, or if he is even worth placing in the trifecta box at all.
Magnum Moon has the pedigree to show that he can go the distance. He was bred on the same cross that produced the 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb, another son of Malibu Moon out of an Unbridled mare. Instead of an Unbridled daughter, Magnum Moon is out of the Unbridled’s Song daughter, Dazzling Song. While she has no race record to show, Dazzling Song comes from a strong female line that includes the former Pletcher horse and 2000 Arkansas Derby winner, Graeme Hall as well as Harmony Lodge and Win McCool. Looking again at Magnum Moon’s pedigree, he has Seattle Slew, 1977 Triple Crown winner four generations back through his grandsire A.P Indy as well as the influential Mr. Prospector twice below in five generations and the late Coolmore stallion, Giant’s Causeway on his dam side in three generations.
While more recent works and a post draw still need to be made for the 2018 Kentucky Derby, Magnum Moon has shown that he has the class and the potential for a win for on the first Saturday in May. With the guidance of Todd Pletcher, the son of Malibu Moon could rocket ahead of the elite Derby crowd, breaking a curse and setting a record at the same time. With brilliant colts like the European incomer Mendelssohn, gutsy and also undefeated Justify, impressive Audible and battle-hardened Bolt D’oro, this Kentucky Derby field is shaping up to be out of this world.