Rebel, rebel, how could they know?
It’s double trouble at Oaklawn Park on Saturday with two divisions of the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes heading your way. After the cancellation of last weekend’s San Felipe at Santa Anita Park, horses from the west coast on the Derby trail had to adjust schedules and look for qualifying races.
Several landed here, including two of the top horses in the NTRA’s weekly top 3-year-old poll in Game Winner (No. 1) and Improbable (No. 3). Both will run in the Rebel, but in different divisions. The two races drew 19 entrants serving as the local prep race for the $1 million Arkansas Derby on Apr. 13 at Oaklawn.
The two divisional races will offer the top four finishers Derby qualifying points totaling 37.5-15-7.5-3.75 which represents 75 percent of the original 50-20-10-5 point allocation. This is due to the purse being adjusted down from $1 million to $750,000 for each divisional race. Oaklawn Park officials actually added $500,000 in purse money to split the race into two divisions.
Both races will be seen on Fox Sports Saturday at the Races on FS2 (DirecTV channel 618) from 5 – 7:30 p.m. EDT.
Some talented colts will be seeking valuable points, with the winner of each race likely to earn a gate in Louisville on the First Saturday in May.
Rebel Stakes – First Division (Race 8 – Oaklawn Park, Post Time: 5:57 p.m. EDT)
Here’s a look at the entries for the Rebel – first division (post position, horse, trainer, jockey, ML odds in parenthesis):
1 – Extra Hope (Mandella, Smith, 6-1). Got waxed in the Los Alamitos Futurity by Improbable and Mucho Gusto, but returned in his 2019 debut to win an optional allowance race at Santa Anita. Son of Shanghai Bobby gets the eyebrow rise with Mike Smith shipping in to ride. Wouldn’t be surprised to see a solid run here as some horses can really mature when they make the transition from their 2-year-old season. Interesting.
2 – Long Range Toddy (Asmussen, Court, 10-1). Currently sits in 14the on the points list with 16, and a second or third place finish keeps him in the thick of things. The Take Charge Indy has traveled over the track in the two earlier preps and has collected enough points to hang around. He’s not winning the Derby, but he may be running in it. Exotics player.
3 – Corruze (Hartman, Elliot, 30-1). Into Mischief colt ships in from the Fair Grounds to make the turf to dirt change. His only race on dirt was at Churchill and was uninspiring although the chart shows he had a rocky start and never recovered. Trainer struggling at this meeting to boot. Hard pass.
4 – Easy Shot (Desormeaux, Eramia, 15-1). Another west coast shipper trying to find a spot. Son of Trappe Shot finished third in the Bobby Lewis earning two points, will need a big effort to move up the qualifying board. Has fired a couple of bullets in the morning, but will need to fire one in the afternoon to be taken seriously. Could improve and usable in the exotics, but tough sell to win.
5 – Proud Nation (Sharp, Cabrera, 50-1). Big step up in class for this son of Tapit, owned by the Wests who have had their share of success. Still looking to break his maiden after two promising starts in his 2-year-old season. His lone start at Oaklawn this year he finished 40 lengths back. Ouch. Pass.
6 – Ninth Street (Asmussen, Santana Jr., 50-1). Only two wins came in the bullring at Delta Downs for Asmussen. Has eight career races and took him five to break his maiden. He puts his “A” team rider in the saddle of the son of Street Boss. Finished way back in the Southwest and will be tough to back against this crew.
7 – Classy John (Stewart, Cohen, 15-1). Looks to be the speed of the race after having some success at Delta. Stretches out to his longest distance to date in the Rebel. Son of sprinter Songandaprayer, Bobby Hurley’s horse that was the early frontrunner in the 2001 Kentucky Derby. Will be a hunch play surrounding my late pal Johnny. Most likely scenario will be early flashes of speed and then a slow fade.
8 – Galilean (Hollendorfer, Prat, 3-1). Most excited to see this competitor, who is attempting to take the California Chrome route to the Derby. Cracked my top 10 ballot in the NTRA poll and his speed could carry him all the way if he doesn’t get hooked with the horse inside him. Son of Uncle Mo is my pick to upset Improbable.
9 – Improbable (Baffert, Van Dyke, 3-5). Avoided Game Winner via the split division, for now. Undefeated son of City Zip ships in from California looking to add to his 10 points garnered in his win in the Los Alamitos Futurity.
Post Time Outlook: 1 – Galilean, 2 – Improbable, 3 – Extra Hope; 4 – Classy John
Rebel Stakes – Second Division (Race 8 – Oaklawn Park, Post Time: 7:06 p.m. EDT)
Here’s a capsule look at the entries for the Rebel – second division (post position, horse, trainer, jockey, ML odds in parenthesis):
1 – Market King (Lukas, Velazquez, 30-1). Hall of Fame connections you don’t see together too often connect in the second division. Big step up in class for the son of Into Mischief who broke his maiden in his fifth career race. Will need to improve in a big way to contend in here.
2 – Laughing Fox (Asmussen, Santana Jr., 10-1). Union Rags colt who was impressive in an allowance over the Oaklawn surface. He’s 2-for-2 at the distance and has high percentage connections in Asmussen/Santana Jr. who know how to win at Oaklawn. Not out of the question.
3 – Parsimony (O’Neill, Gutierrez, 15-1). Still a maiden after seven career races with bad case of seconditis. Solid Triple Crown trail connections who have surprised before. Forced to ship in from California for first race outside of the Golden State. Big ask.
4 – Jersey Agenda (Asmussen, Ortiz, 15-1). Stormed into the Southwest on a two race win streak and was throttled into an eighth place finish. Interesting pedigree with speed on top and distance on the bottom. Multiple Eclipse winner Ortiz is in the irons, so an interesting one to watch. Sitting one out before backing this colt.
5 – Game Winner (Baffert, Rosario, 4-5). Juvenile winner and last year’s 2-year-old champion makes his 2019 debut one week later than expected due to the well documented Santa Anita track issues. Ranked No. 1 in most Kentucky Derby polls and was 6-1 choice in last weekend’s Future Wager Pool 3. His works indicate he’s ready to roll. The one to beat.
6 – Omaha Beach (Mandella, Smith, 7-2). Romped in his maiden win so impressively he’s been showing up on some racing pundits’ Derby lists. War Front colt has serious connections with the ever dangerous Mike Smith in the irons. Best shot at upsetting the champ.
7 – Our Braintrust (Casse, Cohen, 6-1). The Gotham didn’t really flatter this colt as Not That Brady who finished second in front of this one in the Withers, finished last. Casse puts the blinkers on this Gary Barber-owned son of Freud. Leery of making too much of the Withers and the big number that he earned. Think he’s an underlay at post time. Looking elsewhere.
8 – Gunmetal Gray (Hollendorfer, Prat, 10-1). West Point Thoroughbred’s best chance for a Derby entrant gets mixed reviews in the Twitterverse, but he’s been solid to date and has gathered 18 Derby points in the process. The Sham winner was no contest for Mucho Gusto in the Lewis, but he didn’t embarrass and it was over a sloppy track. In the mix.
9 – Kaziranga (Asmussen, Eramia, 50-1). Another Asmussen entry (he has 6 of the 19 entrants) who will need to step up his game. Steve puts the blinkers on the son of Candy Ride, but he’ll need more than an equipment change to win against this group. Too slow.
10 – Captain Von Trapp (Asmussen, Vazquez, 15-1). Son of Trappe Shot drew the outside post to put his two-race win streak on the line. His first try at the distance will determine if he’s the real deal or not. Unlike some of the others in here, he is an intriguing horse that looks to have some upside and ability to move forward. Underneath in the exotics.
Post Time Outlook: 1 – Game Winner 2 – Omaha Beach, 3 – Gunmetal Gray, 4 – Laughing Fox
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.