Last year, American Pharoah captured the Rebel Stakes on his way to an Arkansas Derby and then to the first Triple Crown since 1978. This year, the $900,000 Rebel is the lone Derby prep of the weekend. Here my full race analysis, going horse by horse.
After romping home in his last race, a Maiden Special Weight at Oaklawn, this Steve Asmussen trainee steps up into graded stakes company for the first time. Sure to be bet, putting up two 80+ Beyers in his career and was very eye-catching making up 11 lengths to win by over 7. However, the races he has been in have been so slow early, that he never really needed much to get up. Having taken 6 tries to break his maiden, I’ll leave this one alone. If he beats me, oh well, but the class of the races he has been in just doesn’t seem enough to warrant a bet on him.
Doug O’Neill has plenty of Derby hopefuls and Ralis is no other, winner of the Hopefuly last summer. However, his inconsistency is a major concern and he hasn’t been training as well as he could. With very slow times in his past workouts, he will need to show up to have a chance. Not convinced that this will be a winning effort. Toss.
Bob Baffert is in love with the Rebel, having won the race five of the last six years. He ships Cupid over to try to capture his record sixth Rebel. After easily winning the last race at Santa Anita to break his maiden, Cupid has been working very well. However, Baffert aimed his horse at the Sunland Derby instead, making me worry about how good this horse really is. His last race was one of the better ones in this field. I’ll give him a good, long look.
After capturing the Smarty Jones back in January, the Springboard Mile winner just couldn’t get going in the Southwest. However, I won’t discount him because of that. Jon Court sat him much farther back than usual and Discreetness couldn’t get going late because of it. I expect to see him much closer to the pace this time out. Maybe not classy enough to win, but an in the money finish is possible.
6. Siding Spring
2015 was the year of Mark Casse, but Siding Spring is not living up to that moniker. He has done his best running on the turf and has been trying dirt his last two efforts. He may have some class, but it won’t be on the dirt. Toss.
7. Spikes Shirl
Dallas Stewart has been known to have longshots hit the board in the Kentucky Derby. This year he may have found another. Spikes Shirl is a solid horse for Fipke and Stewart. Having run very even races the last two times, he may be able to get going late if the pace ends up flattening out. I won’t doubt this horse yet, but not a true win contender. Remind me of this horse when making my Kentucky Derby exotics.
The other Asmussen runner is far from having the class to fit in this field. Although he scored an 89 Beyer in his last race, a six length score at Oaklawn. Now stepping up in class, he has a chance at a win if he can be within one length of the leader (or on the lead) in the early going of the race, something he has only done once in his career.
8. American Dubai
One of the faster horses in this race, this Rodney Richards runner should get the lead in this race. If he can slow it down early, he may be able to run with this race. Reminds me a lot of Trinniberg. Not the best in this race, but such a speed threat and gets Chris Landeros for this one. I’m using him.
2. Z Royal
The Coach, D. Wayne Lukas brings in this son of Eskendereya after two poor efforts in graded stakes. Not seeing much promise in this class for this Zayat runner. Doesn’t look like Ahmed Zayat will capture back-to-back Rebels.
2x. Gray Sky
The better of the two Lukas runners, this one comes out of a close second place finish to the unbeaten Dazzling Gem. Although he had no success in the Smarty Jones, just reeling behind, he improved greatly after the last race. Major threat to win and gets Florent Geroux aboard.
I won’t doubt this horses ability, but I don’t see enough from him to win this race. He was never a factor in the Southwest and hasn’t seemed to want to put together a good effort time in and time out. He has been working really well, however, and looks poised for a big run. I’ll use him in my exotics, but not my win contender here.
Irad Ortiz, Jr. doesn’t make too many trips down to Oaklawn, and when he does, he goes for the win. Whitmore was able to capture the place money last time and can easily do it again. He raced very wide last time out, and just got passed down the stretch by the roaring Suddenbreakingnews. I’m giving Whitmore a huge shot here, a horse that looks to get better as the races get longer.
11. Cherry Wine
Two straight wins have put this horse into this spot, and just like most Dale Romans Derby hopefuls, he is a closer. He may enjoy an off track more than a fast one, but has the skill to run well here. I’ll use him at the bottom of my Trifectas.
It is rare to see a Mineshaft offspring doing so well this early in its career. Suddenbreakingnews has yet to finish worse than second and has been very tough down the lane. He has been working a little slower than he was coming into the Southwest, which is a worry, but he has been so good in each outing that it is hard to discount him. Drawing an outer post again makes it another tough challenge to win, especially if he drops back as far as he did last time. I think he is the class fo the race, but carrying the most weight he has ever carried (and at least 5 more pounds than most of the field, outside of Discreetness, who also carries 122) will make this a weary bet. Won’t be my top pick, but will appear on all of my tickets.
Rebel Top Pick: 4 – Cupid
Live Longshot: 2x – Gray Sky
Exacta Play: 2, 4, 12 w/ 2, 4, 5, 8, 9, 12
Good Luck to all and enjoy the Rebel Stakes from Oaklawn, going off at around 7pm EST.