Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 14:04 PM
Derby Contenders - Part I
This week, Anthony “the Big A” Stabile will preview the 2018 Kentucky Derby on VegasInsider.com, culminating on Friday, May 4 with an extensive analysis of every runner that steps into the gate for the Run for the Roses. On both May 4 and May 5, Kentucky Oaks and Derby Day, you’ll be able to purchase Stabile’s Pick Packs, full of selections and plays for two of racings’ most exciting days of the year. To purchase Anthony Stabile products, click here!
The first of our four-part Kentucky Derby preview will focus on the Todd Squad:
Magnum Moon, Audible, Vino Rosso, and Noble Indy – the four horses trained by two-time Derby winner Todd Pletcher, who campaigned Super Saver in 2010 and Always Dreaming last year, as well as Enticed, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, who is looking for his first win in the Run for the Roses. Both Pletcher and McLaughlin spent a good deal of time earlier in their careers working under Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas as his assistant.
Magnum Moon, the leading points-winner on the Road to the Kentucky Derby with 150 points, comes in undefeated in four starts and will look to become the first horse since Apollo in 1882 to win the Derby without having raced as a two-year-old.
After breaking his maiden going six furlongs at Gulfstream on the front end in mid-January, Magnum Moon stretched out to two turns, taking a one mile and forty yards, entry level allowance/optional claimer across Florida at Tampa Bay Downs by two lengths from off the pace just about a month later under his regular rider Luis Saez.
Pletcher decided on the G2 Rebel at Oaklawn Park on St. Patrick’s Day for Magnum Moon’s stakes debut. It featured the more seasoned, tested and fellow Derby entrant Solomini as well as the return of G1 Hopeful winner Sporting Chance. Sent off as the 3-1 second choice in the wagering, Magnum Moon stacked up three-wide for most of the way before grabbing the lead on the turn and drawing away to win by more than three lengths.
A return to Arkansas four weeks later for the G1 Arkansas Derby was the plan and for a while it looked like a dream prep match-up with fellow undefeated, Apollo Curser Justify. But Justify was rerouted and stayed in California, leaving Magnum Moon to be the overwhelming 4-5 favorite. He failed to disappoint.
Sent immediately to the lead by Saez, Magnum Moon made every pole a winning one and, despite drifting out through the stretch, crossed the wire a four-length winner. After the win, Magnum Moon returned to Pletcher’s Palm Beach Downs (PBD) winter headquarters and with just three weeks between Arkansas and Kentucky, he worked just once between starts going four furlongs in :47 2/5 on April 27 at Churchill.
Like Magnum Moon, Audible comes into the Derby on a four-race win-streak, with his lone defeat coming in his sprint debut against fellow New York-breds at Belmont Park last fall. He closed out his juvenile season with a win against similar competition at Aqueduct in mid-November when he stretched out to a mile then defeated just three others in an off-the-turf event going the same distance against open company in early December.
Originally scheduled to winter in the Big Apple, Pletcher sent for Audible after winter weather at Aqueduct postponed a couple of his intended targets, And, like plenty of Pletcher runners in the past, Audible took a big step forward once arriving in the Sunshine State.
On February 3, Audible thrust himself onto the Derby Trail with a powerful victory by over five lengths in the G2 Holy Bull at Gulfstream. Under Hall of Fame rider Javier Castellano, who has decided to pilot him over Bolt d’Oro in Louisville, Audible raced in mid-pack before exploding on the far turn and expanding his margin of victory through the stretch. It was an effort that admittedly surprised Pletcher but not the betting public who pummeled him down to 3-1 at the windows.
Pletcher decided Audible would need just one more prep, skipped the G2 Fountain of Youth with him and pointed him to the G1 Florida Derby on March 31, a race he won last year with Always Dreaming. Sent to post as the 8-5 favorite, Audible dropped toward the back of the pack in the early running and looked a bit disinterested before getting his mind on his business and moving past the field. He made the lead on the far turn and tallied a comfortable three-length score under John Velazquez who filled in for Castellano who was in Dubai for their World Cup night.
Since the Florida Derby, Audible has put in three works at PBD. He went a half-mile in :48 3/5 on April 13, five furlongs in 1:01 2/5 on April 20 and four furlongs in :49 2/5 on April 27 at Churchill.
Should Vino Rosso win the Derby, it would mark only the second time in history that a trainer/jockey combo would win back to back renewals of the Derby. Trainer Lucian Lauren and jockey Ron Turcotte accomplished the feat back in 1972 and 1973 with Riva Ride and the immortal Secretariat. Hall of Famer John Velazquez piloted Always Dreaming last year and also won this back in 2011 aboard Animal Kingdom.
After winning both starts last year, a seven furlong maiden event at Aqueduct and an allowance/optional claimer around two turns at Tampa Bay, Vino Rosso returned to the oval and made his first start of the season in the G3 Sam F. Davis in early February. Racing between horses most of the way, he dropped back on the far turn before closing once shaking clear in the stretch to finish a closing third, missing by just over a length.
Pletcher added blinkers for the G2 Tampa Bay Derby a month to the day later in the hopes that some of the erratic behavior from the Davis would disappear. It did, but Vino Rosso never fired. Though he sat a perfect trip behind the speed, he lost ground through the stretch and stayed fourth.
In need of Derby points, Pletcher sent Vino Rosso back to the scene of his debut where he faced eight rivals in the G2 Wood Memorial at the Big A in early April. Racing far back behind a solid early half-mile, Velazquez turned him loose approaching the far turn and tackled the new leader Enticed at the top of the stretch. After a battle that included several bumps between the two that appeared to be initiated by this guy, he eventually shook free of his rival and crossed the wire three lengths in front. The inquiry sign was posted but ultimately, and many think, wrongfully, the stewards let the decision stand.
With four weeks between his last victory and the Derby, Vino Rosso will work twice between starts. He went a half-mile in :49 3/5 at PBD on April 20 and a half-mile in :47 1/5 at Churchill on April 27.
Noble Indy will come in with the biggest break between starts for Pletcher as he was last seen gutting out a hard-fought win in the G2 Louisiana Derby some six weeks before the first Saturday in May. In fact, Noble Indy started the streak in which Pletcher won a major Derby prep on FOUR consecutive Saturdays.
Noble Indy started his career with an eye-opening, seven furlong score in 1:22 in early December, then toyed with the highly regarded Mississippi five weeks later in an entry level allowance/optional claimer, both at Gulfstream. Pletcher shipped Noble Indy to the Fair Grounds for his stakes debut, the G2 Risen Star in mid-February.
Breaking from post 2, Noble Indy got bothered a bit at the break then was caught down inside and behind horses on a speed-biased racetrack. He stayed on nicely to save the show-dough as the two longshot leaders hit the line noses apart, two lengths ahead of him.
Last out in the Louisiana Derby, Pletcher added blinkers but Noble Indy again had some trouble at the break from that same post 2 This time, however, Velazquez got aggressive and maneuvered him off the inside while stalking a 100-1 shot on the front end. He appeared to put things to bed when he opened three lengths on the field turning for home while racing along the inside but failed to see a pair of rivals, Lone Sailor and My Boy Jack, make menacing moves to and past him. But instead of folding his tent, he fought back and re-rallied along the inside to win by a neck.
Noble Indy will have four works leading up to this. He went a half-mile in :50 1/5 on April 6, five furlongs in 1:01 on April 13 and six panels in 1:15 on April 20, all at PBD. His final work was at Churchill on April 27 where he went five furlongs in 1:01 3/5. Florent Geroux will ride him in the Derby for the first time.
The connections of Enticed have to be hoping that the win/loss pattern he has exhibited throughout his six-race career holds true in the Derby as he has won his odd-numbered starts and lost his even-numbered starts.
Enticed broke his maiden in the mud at Saratoga on closing day before finishing third in the G1 Champagne at Belmont. He closed out his juvenile season with a game victory in the KJC at Churchill, his first start around two turns.
McLaughlin took Enticed to Florida and pointed him towards the Holy Bull. He also decided to make a rider change to Joe Rosario despite the fact the Junior Alvarado had ridden him perfectly in his first three starts. Breaking from the rail, Enticed raced inside the entire way and put in a minor bid approaching the turn but didn’t sustain his rally and faded to fourth as the 9-5 favorite.
Enticed regrouped and was sent to Aqueduct for the G3 Gotham. With the NYRA schedule changed this year, the Gotham returned to a one-turn mile for the first time in over a decade. Alvarado climbed back aboard and the two fell right back into cadence, sitting in mid-pack while widest of all before rolling past the leader to win by almost three lengths while geared down for the last 50 yards.
Enticed returned to Aqueduct for the Wood Memorial and was sent off as the 6-5 favorite. Second most of the way, he made the lead briefly on the turn before getting into the aforementioned slugfest with Vino Rosso.
Enticed has been back at his winter base, Palm Meadows, since the Wood Memorial. He returned to the worktab on April 19 when he worked five furlongs in 1:01 1/5 and finished up his major morning business on April 26 when he went five furlongs in 1:00 1/5.
Anthony “the Big A” Stabile can be heard regularly on the Horse Racing Radio Network from 3-6PM ET on Wednesday and 3-7PM ET Thursday and Friday. Tune in on Sirius 219, XM 201 or streaming live at horseracingradio.net. He also is a contributor on NYRA-TV as a guest on Talking Horses. Follow him on Twitter @thebigastabile