For the second time during the Oaklawn Park meet, trainer Todd Pletcher has taken an undefeated colt with only one-turn experience and turned him into a Kentucky Derby (G1) candidate. One month after One Liner’s sharp win in the Southwest (G3) in his two-turn debut, Malagacy pulled off the same trick in Saturday’s $900,000 Rebel (G2) with Javier Castellano in the irons.
The 3-1 second choice in a field of 11, Malagacy tracked in second as Uncontested led through splits of :23.03, :47.04, and 1:11.35. Malagacy took over from that tiring foe nearing the stretch and surged ahead to win the 1 1/16-mile prep for the Arkansas Derby (G1) by two lengths in a time of 1:43.
Owned by Sumaya Us Stables, Malagacy paid $8.60. The colt earned 50 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby with the victory, virtually assuring him a position in the starting gate at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.
“He showed today that he can definitely go around two turns and I am very proud of him,” Pletcher said. “He showed good tactical speed yet he rated very kindly, which we thought he would do. We were trying a new distance and he was stepping up in class against some nice, seasoned horses so I was very, very pleased with and proud of his effort.”
The biggest shocks in the Rebel occurred behind Malagacy. Sonneteer, an eight-race maiden bred and owned by Calumet Farm, nosed out Untrapped for the place at 112-1, with Petrov another nose behind in fourth. Those three earned Derby qualifying points of 20-10-5, respectively.
The biggest disappointment in the Rebel was 8-5 favorite American Anthem, who broke slow, did not show his customary speed, and faded to 10th after failing to pick up from mid-pack.
“Slipped really bad leaving there in behind and stayed that way the whole race,” jockey Mike Smith said of American Anthem. “Just struggled for whatever reason. I was OK as long as we were all slow. As soon as we had to pick it up, I would give him his head, legs just went everywhere.”
The other California invader, Royal Mo, also showed little in finishing ninth.
A debut winner by 15 lengths in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden at Gulfstream on January 4, Malagacy repeated against allowance foes in dazzling style on February 12, winning by seven lengths going 6 1/2 furlongs. He’s now earned $586,800.
“The Arkansas Derby (on April 15) would be the logical next step,” Pletcher said. “We’ll bring him home tomorrow to Palm Beach Downs and see how he bounces out of it. The Arkansas Derby timing wise would be good, and getting a mile-and-an-eighth race under his belt would also be beneficial. That would be Plan A, but in this business we all know that sometimes you have to call some audibles. Right now that’s what the thinking is.”
By 2011 Preakness (G1) winner Shackleford, Malagacy is out of the Dehere mare Classiest Gem, who is also the dam of the stakes-placed Classy Gem. This is the family of Canadian champion mare Impossible Time.
Bred in Kentucky by John Trumbulovic, Malagacy has been sold at public auction three times: for $45,000 as a Keeneland November weanling, for $130,000 as an OBS August yearling, and for $190,000 as a Fasig-Tipton May juvenile.