Shopping the 2016 Keeneland September yearling sale on behalf of Robert and Lawana Low, agent Jacob West landed on a big, scopey son of Malibu Moon he believed had the potential to develop into a Saturday afternoon kind of horse.
West's instincts are proving correct after that colt, Magnum Moon, took a sizable step on the Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) with a 3 1/2-length victory March 17 in the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park. Remaining undefeated in three starts with the win over an accomplished field that included multiple grade 1-placed Solomini, Magnum Moon also earned 50 points toward a place in the May 5 Derby. He is being pointed toward Oaklawn's Arkansas Derby (G1) April 14 for his next outing.
Bred in Kentucky by Ramona S. Bass, Magnum Moon was offered as Hip 801 as part of the Claiborne Farm consignment at Keeneland, where he was hammered down to the Lows for $380,000.
West said part of his attraction to the colt was that he was a product of the iconic Claiborne nursery and he was undeterred by the late foaling date of May 9, 2015.
"I kind of look for a certain type," West said. "Mark Taylor (of Taylor Made Farm), my mentor, pounded into my brain for years there are certain things you look for in these horses. Once you find that type, then look at the rest of the parts that make them up. I don't really rate them. Once I find that physical type, it's easy for me to remember where they are, rather than grading or scaling them.
"He was a big, scopey May foal who stood over a lot of ground," West continued. "He had a pretty head and neck, a good eye and shoulder and a nice hip; all the stuff you look for in an athletic horse. He just did all the right things. He moved really well. To me he was a big two-turn looking horse."
West, who is vice president of bloodstock for Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and previously was director of bloodstock for Three Chimneys Farm, is also racing manager for the Lows, who are among a handful of clients he retained when he accepted the Eclipse position in mid-2017.
Sent to trainer Todd Pletcher, Magnum Moon continued his development and was with Pletcher's stable at Saratoga Racecourse working toward a possible first start when he developed filling in an ankle. Although veterinarians said the minor issue would go away within a couple of weeks, Pletcher advised giving the colt additional time.
"Todd said 'I think this is a really nice horse. Let's just send him to the farm, let him grow up a little more and fill into himself, and when I head south to Palm Beach Downs I'll pick him up,' " West said. "It was 100% Todd making that call.
"Everybody says in this business rarely do plans come together. In this instance so far it is coming together. We hope we can stick to the plan and keep moving in the right direction. It's a long way from here to the first Saturday in May. You can't help think about stuff like that. That's why we're in the business."
West said Magnum Moon's success in a graded stakes at Oaklawn is particularly significant for the Lows because the Hot Springs, Ark., track is essentially their home track. The couple own Primatara Thoroughbred farm north of Springfield, Mo.
The Lows, whose half-dozen stakes winners include grade 1 Test Stakes winner Capote Belle, have been represented by one previous Kentucky Derby starter, who was 2006 third-place finisher Steppenwolfer.
"It's been a long time since they've had some success like this," West said. "They really cherish it. To win a race like this at their home track meant a lot to them."