Sumaya U.S. Stable’s Malagacy catapulted himself right into the center of the Kentucky Derby (GI) picture with an impressive two-length victory in the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (GII) at Oaklawn Park. The son of 2011 Preakness Stakes (GI) winner Shackleford, who is trained by Todd Pletcher and was ridden to victory by Javier Castellano, remains undefeated in three starts and has earned $586,800.
As the second choice in the field of 11 at odds of nearly 7-2, Malagacy returned $8.60, $6.60 and $5.60. Sonneteer, the longest shot on the board at odds of more than 112-1, capped off a generous $285 exacta and was worth $58.20 and $15.40. Untrapped was another nose back in third and paid $5.40. The $.50 trifecta was good for $943.
Petrov, Silver Dust, Lookin at Lee, Appalachian Gem, Uncontested, Royal Mo, the 8-5 favored American Anthem and Silver Bullion rounded out the order of finish.
As expected, Uncontested sped straight to the lead after the break and, while racing mostly uncontested, cruised through moderate early splits of :23.03, :47.04 and 1:11.35 with Malagacy chasing while closest to the rail. As the early leader began to tire around the far bend, Castellano asked Malagacy for more and, turning for home, had reached even terms with the frontrunner. Soon after putting his head in front just past the eighth pole, the winner logged a mile in 1:36.80 and held on to win in a final time of 1:43 over a fast main track despite drifting in a bit in deep stretch.
“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.”
Malagacy, who is out of the Dehere mare Classiest Gem, was bred in Kentucky by John Trumbulovic and passed through the sales ring three times, first going for $45,000 as a Keeneland November weanling, then for $130,000 as an Ocala Breeders’ Sales August yearling, before ultimately selling for $190,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-old in training nearly a year ago.
“The [GI] Arkansas Derby [April 15], timing-wise, would be good, and getting a mile and an eighth race under his belt would also be beneficial,” Pletcher said. “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.”
Mike Smith, who was aboard the favorite, could only say the colt most likely didn’t care for the Oaklawn Park main track. The rider had won over the track earlier on the card when he guided Mor Spirit to victory in the Essex Handicap (GIII).
“[American Anthem] slipped really bad leaving there in behind and stayed that way the whole race,” Smith said. “[He] 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.”