Rebel Stakes Preview: Horse-by-Horse Analysis of Saturday's Big Race @OP

The Grade II Rebel arrives, and our J.N. Campbell has an in-depth preview of the Kentucky Derby Points race.
The Grade II Rebel arrives, and our J.N. Campbell has an in-depth preview of the Kentucky Derby Points race.

1 1/16th (Dirt), Rebel Stakes (G2, Purse $1 Million, 3

Traditionally, Oaklawn’s Grade II Rebel Stakes has served as a key stop on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. Celebrated horses like Smarty Jones, Curlin, American Pharoah, Omaha Beach, and most recently, Nadal, have enjoyed a trip to the winner’s circle. Thus, the long shadow of trainer Bob Baffert has cast itself over this particular race. Coupled with that prospect again, the dirt oval in Hot Springs is difficult to handicap since it can play so differently, day-to-day. This year should be no different, as a salty group looks to take a majority piece of that $1 Million pie!

Now, let’s find out about this field…

#1 Caddo River (Jky: F. Geroux/Trn: B. Cox):

Brad Cox holds what looks like the ace in this contest with a son of Hard Spun. There is no doubt that if this colt can break well and get to the lead, it may well be over if Florent Geroux can modulate the speed up front. His 10-length score in the Smarty Jones 150k handed him Derby Points, but it also got everyone talking about his conditioner’s deep bench. How does this entry get better… win the Rebel. Then, it will be Cox’s decision about what to do next. Keeping him in Hot Springs seems logical for the Arkansas Derby (G1) now that we know Essential Quality is headed back to Keeneland for the Blue Grass S. (G1).

Grade: A-


#2 Big Lake (Jky: R. Santana/Trn: S. Asmussen):

This well-bred colt by American Pharoah has a bright future, after 2 stellar attempts at the Fair Grounds that resulted in wins, it is no wonder. Steve Asmussen always comes to play hardball, and pundits might scoff at this one’s lack of experience in higher class levels, but I wouldn’t sleep on this entry. The FG fields he faced were large, and it was not easy on that track to come from off-the-pace like he did in both of those events. These are the types that have loads of talent, and with his signature OP rider aboard, Ricardo Santana, this colt could surprise everyone. To my eye, he might be the wisest guy of them all. Watch out!

Grade: B


#3 Hozier (Jky: M. Garcia/Trn: B. Baffert):

The Brad Cox-Caddo River #1 Rebel celebration could be spoiled by Bob Baffert. I see these 2 trainers as the leaders when it comes to North American Eclipse Awards for years to come. Baffert is coming to Cox’s pitch, even though you could say… it is the other way around, since the former has spent years shipping in and winning @OP. Of the 2 entries that are coming to Hot Springs, the first is a colt by Pioneerof the Nile who was ensconced at Santa Anita. Baffert brought him along the Justify trail by waiting to run him as a 3-yr-old. Fresh and hopeful, he was good off the turn in a MSW61k last time out. Most will scrutinize that Beyer, but the works… those should be examined. They all look like the brave and the bold. If this T-bred is sharp, then he could spring the upset. Baffert deserves respect wherever he goes, but this one is going to have to run hard with Martin Garcia aboard. That might be a little too much to ask.

Grade: C+


#4 Get Her Number (Jky: J. Castellano/Trn: P. Miller):

Folks have waited… and waited… and waited, for this son of Dialed In to come back from that win he posted a long time ago in the American Pharoah (G1) in September at Santa Anita. Trainer Peter Miller put him back into the mix during the first month of the year, and he has worked well. How he will respond to jumping into this event is anyone’s guess. The fact that Javier Castellano gets aboard, even as rusty as he may be, is solace. His riding capability is still top notch. I am unconvinced though… I would have liked to have seen some kind of freshening, especially since his ability on dirt is rather untested at this point. Could be a fabulous horse as his 2021 campaign begins. This is a heck of a race to try and win.

Grade: C+


#5 Twilight Blue (Jky: B. Hernandez/Trn: J. Sharp):

Trainer Joe Sharp is playing with the fire, sending his son of Air Force Blue into this spot. He looks pretty overmatched, especially considering the most important race he has ever contested was a “Non-Graded” affair at the Fair Grounds. He is going to have his hands full with 1 Cox, 2 Bafferts, 1 Diodoro, 1 Asmussen, and a Miller. Whew! The phrase “race of his life,” comes to mind in this situation. You want to root for an underdog, here he is…

Grade: C-


#6 Keepmeinmind (Jky: D. Cohen/Trn: R. Diodoro):

The return of Robertino’s Diodoro’s own ace has finally come. The Canadian-born trainer had the colt ready for the Southwest Stakes (G3), but a giant snow blast changed everything. The barn decided to re-deploy by waiting for the Rebel S. Now, we will see if that fateful decision will pay off. The problem with waiting is that when you have a horse “cranked up” for a big race, it is difficult to back him off, and go back to the drawing board. It might end up not being an issue, considering what kind of power this colt by Laoban has at his disposal. I would think he has major ability, and could go head-to-head with anyone, including Cox and Baffert. It will not be easy, but there are major advantages to a late Derby run. A win here, plus a solid showing in the Arkansas Derby could earn these connections a spot in the starting gate on the “First Saturday in May.”

Grade: B+


#7 Concert Tour (Jky: J. Rosario/Trn: B. Baffert):

As if we did not have enough storylines woven throughout this race… here comes the other entry from the barn of Bob Baffert. Talk about a colt who turned some heads last time out at Santa Anita; this son of Street Sense posted a big speed fig—97. Sending Joel Rosario along to Oaklawn to ride him once again, the Hop trainer is hoping that continuity between horse-rider will make the difference. Rosario is one of the elite jockeys in all of America, and there is no reason why his mount shouldn’t perform well. Could we be looking at 4 entries for Baffert at Churchill for the Derby? It is certainly possible. First though, he is going to have to get this one home for Gary and Mary West. We know they want to have another crack at that race, so they can see those bright pink colors of their stable cruise to victory. It might happen.

Grade: B+


#8 Super Stock (Jky: J. Talamo/Trn: S. Asmussen):

After so much fanfare, here is the final entry for the Rebel, another colt trained by Steve Asmussen. This Dialed In showed some promise last fall, but he was forced into difficult races against the likes of say, Essential Quality or Keepmeinmind in the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland. He was just in over his head, and there was no way he was going to beat a field like that one. Now, after a long layoff, he is back for his 3-yr-old bow. These comments do not mean he is not a horse who cannot make an impact as the year goes on. I think for what it is worth here, he is just going to have to run the race of his life. Very difficult prospect… even with Joe Talamo aboard, who will be riding him for the first time.

Grade: C


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