Dissecting The Derby: Magnum Moon

Dissecting The Derby: Magnum Moon
Magnum Moon, right, works at Churchill Downs on Friday morning. (Source: Churchill Downs)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - No race is tougher to ferret out than the Kentucky Derby, which at times can seem as perplexing 30 minutes before post time as it is 30 days out.

It can look so easy after the fact, so here we helpfully tell you in advance why the winner will prevail.

Of course we do it for every horse in the field -- as well as explaining why you can't possibly cash a ticket betting that horse.

So let us do the detective work as we case out the Kentucky Derby -- including the perilous exercise of handicapping the Racing Gods.

Notes: Final Fractions reflects how fast the horse ran the last eighth-mile and last three-eighths of a mile in its 1 1/8-mile prep race. The Final Fraction Theory rules out horses who ran the last eighth slower than 13.0 and the last three-eighths in slower than 38.0. Bris and Beyer speed figures are ratings designed to compute how fast a horse ran taking into account track conditions as a means of comparing horses from different tracks and races.

16. MAGNUM MOON (6-1)
Owner: Lawana and Robert Low
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Luis Saez
Record: 4—4-0-0
Earnings: $1,177,800
Last race: 1st, Arkansas Derby, Oaklawn Park
Fastest Bris speed figure: 100, Rebel Stakes
Fastest Beyer speed figure: 98, Arkansas Derby
Final Fractions of last race: 11.99, 36.47

Why Magnum Moon can win
Have you seen that beautiful super moon all week? We've got a celestial tout. He has only improved as the distances have stretched out and has the ability to win on the lead or be several lengths off the pace. He twice has competed in fields with double-digit starters so he's used to some traffic. His final three-eighths time in the Arkansas Derby was the fastest for a winner since the very talented Afleet Alex in 2005, according to Gary West, one of the sport's most astute handicappers and who has followed Oaklawn for decades. Malibu Moon already has sired one Kentucky Derby winner in Orb (2013). With two Kentucky Derby victories on his resume since 2010, Todd Pletcher has figured this Derby business out and will start winning in bunches.

Why he won't
With Wood winner Vino Rosso, Florida Derby victor Audible and Louisiana Derby winner Noble Indy, is Magnum Moon even the best 3-year-old in the barn? As we all know, Apollo in 1882 is the only horse to win the Kentucky Derby without having raced the previous year at age 2. If and when another unraced 2-year-old wears the roses, it will be against a weak crop of 3-year-olds. This is not one of them. If two-time Horse of the Year Curlin couldn't pull it off, it's doubtful that Magnum Moon can. With post 16 and a lot of talented horses with natural speed in the field, he might have drawn the worst of the favorites, with the potential to be hung wide heading into the first turn or sucked back out of his comfort zone. Everyone finishes fast in the Arkansas Derby because the stretch is slightly downhill. With so many horses finishing so well, it makes one suspicious that they can't all be that good.

Jockey Luis Saez has ridden in the Kentucky Derby the previous five years, his best finish being seventh. Todd Pletcher will exit this Derby with the most career starters in the race ever, breaking out of a tie with his former boss D. Wayne Lukas, both having had 48 prior runners. Magnum Moon was a $380,000 yearling. Owners Robert and Lawana Low have had one prior Derby starter, finishing third in 2006 with Steppenwolfer. Post 16 has four Derby winners since 1995, the last being Animal Kingdom in 2011.

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