Casino Gambling

Coast casino owners’ horse is a favorite to win the Kentucky Derby

Magnum Moon is one of the favorites to win Saturday's Kentucky Derby. The thoroughbred is owned by Robert and  Lawana Low, owners of Palace Casino Resort in Biloxi, which will host a derby party Saturday.
Magnum Moon is one of the favorites to win Saturday's Kentucky Derby. The thoroughbred is owned by Robert and Lawana Low, owners of Palace Casino Resort in Biloxi, which will host a derby party Saturday. Courtesy of Palace Casino

One of the front-runners in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby has ties to Palace Casino Resort.

Robert and Lawana Low, who own the Palace Casino in Biloxi, also own Magnum Moon, a top contender in the 144th Run for the Roses. Should their horse win or lose, a celebration is planned at the Palace.

Magnum Moon is descended from Seattle Slew, a Triple Crown winner in 1977, and he is ranked in the top five of horses expected to win.

The thoroughbred is undefeated in four races this year and earned a place in the race by winning the $1 million Arkansas Derby in April. The 3-year-old is the 11th horse in 43 years to win both the Arkansas Derby and the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes.

The Lows bought Magnum Moon as a yearling for $380,000, and he is their second horse to reach the Kentucky Derby. Steppenwolfer finished third in 2006, and Robert Low told Bloodhorse he doesn’t think there is a more thrilling experience than being at the Derby with a horse.

“Super excited about this horse and his chances,” he said of Magnum Moon.

Journey to the derby

Low started the trucking firm Prime Inc. in Urbana, Missouri, in 1970, according to the company history, with one dump truck. In 10 years it had become a $50 million operation, and the corporate headquarters relocated to Springfield, Missouri, near where the Lows live on their farm, Primatara, and raise thoroughbreds.

The Lows purchased the Palace Casino out of bankruptcy in 1996 for $14.25 million and quickly built a parking garage, hotel and marina. They rebuilt the casino after the casino barge was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina and in 2011 completed a 110,000-square-foot expansion.

They also made the Palace the first casino resort in the South to go totally smoke-free.

Derby Day at the Palace

Those who can’t be at Churchill Downs Saturday to watch the race can see it at Palace Casino. Derby Day begins at 4 p.m. Saturday at Contact Lounge & Sports Bar on the second floor of the casino.

While betting on horses is still illegal, there is a contest for Players’ Club members, said Lisa Quirch, advertising and public relations manager. Five members who correctly choose the derby winner will win $100 in Power Play slot credits. If Magnum Moon wins, 10 names will be drawn from those who chose Magnum Moon to win and each will receive a $500 Power Play prize.

Magnum Moon logo shirts also are among the prizes, and a special Magnum Moon cocktail was created with a blend of Tito’s Handmade American Vodka, raspberry liqueur, pure rose extract and club soda.

Sports betting center stage

Because sports betting isn’t legal in Mississippi and most of the country, Quirch said the winners will be drawn out of a box of entries and no betting will take place.

The race comes during a week when the prospect of legalized sports betting is front and center in South Mississippi.

Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the American Gaming Association, opens the Southern Gaming Summit at 8:30 a.m. Thursday at Beau Rivage Resort & Casino. He will speak about reversing the ban on sports betting that has stood since 1992 in most states.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule by the end of June on the legality of sports betting, and it’s expected to be a hot topic during a 9 a.m. forum Thursday with Southern casino leaders and an 11 a.m. session on the challenges and opportunities for sports betting.

Mississippi is considered to be one of the front runners to implement sports betting, since the state Legislature already approved it if the ban is overturned by the federal government. Most casinos in South Mississippi are owned by companies that already operate sports betting in Las Vegas and quickly could implement it in Mississippi.