Hot Springs, Ark. (Friday, March 11, 2016) – A full field of 14 was entered Wednesday morning for the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) for 3-year-olds Saturday at Oaklawn. Probable post time for the 1 1/16-mile Rebel, the 10th of 11 races, is 6:06 p.m. (Central). Racing begins at 1:05 p.m. and weather permitting, the infield will be open for the first time this season Saturday.
The Rebel is the final major local prep for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 16 and offers 85 points to the top four finishers (50-20-10-5) toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby, which is limited to 20 starters.
The Rebel brings back Suddenbreakingnews, Whitmore and American Dubai, the 1-2-3 finishers, respectively, from the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 15 at Oaklawn. Suddenbreakingnews, a 2 ¾-length last-to-first winner from post 13, drew post 14 for the Rebel. Regular rider Luis Quinonez will have the mount on Suddenbreakingnews, a gelded son of 2003 Horse of the Year Mineshaft.
Whitmore drew post 12 for co-owner/trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs, who has given the mount to Irad Ortiz Jr.
“I feel more comfortable about the 12 than the inside for him,” Moquett said. “I said I wanted the 7 through the 9, but we won’t be in the gates real long.”
Also returning from the Southwest are Siding Spring (fifth), Discreetness (seventh), Z Royal (eighth) and Cutacorner (ninth). Discreetness beat Suddenbreakingnews a nose in the $250,000 Springboard Mile Stakes Dec. 13 at Remington Park and won the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 18 at Oaklawn in his 3-year-old debut. Discreetness was never a factor in the Southwest after breaking from post 14.
Cupid, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s lightly-raced hopeful in Saturday’s Grade 2 $900,000 Rebel Stakes, arrived on Tuesday from Southern California in search of his first Kentucky Derby qualifying points and the colt got his first feel for Oaklawn Park’s racing strip on Wednesday morning.
Owned by the Coolmore connections of Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier and Derek Smith, the handsome 3-year-old son of Tapit went out after the break under exercise rider Danielle Rosier for an easy gallop once around the one-mile oval.
“It was a light day today after a travel day yesterday. We were just showing him the track this morning and we’ll get a little more serious with him tomorrow when he’ll gallop a mile and a half. It will be just our regular routine for him all week,” said Jimmy Barnes, Baffert’s longtime top assistant, who will saddle the gray/roan colt on race day.
That routine has worked exceptionally well for the barn in the Rebel, which offers 50-20-10-5 points (first through fourth place finish) and is the final prep race for the Grade 1 $1 million Arkansas Derby April 16.
Baffert, the reigning Eclipse Award winner for Outstanding Trainer, has captured five of the last six runnings of the Rebel.
Last year, Zayat Stables’ American Pharoah made his spectacular 2015 debut in winning the Rebel before returning to Oaklawn to dominate in the Arkansas Derby on the way to becoming only the 12th Triple Crown winner and earning unanimous championships as 3 Year-Old-Male and Horse of the Year.
Cupid, who is out of the Beau Genius mare Pretty ‘n Smart and was a $900,000 purchase at the 2014 Keeneland September Yearling sale, has made just three starts and is stepping all the up into a Grade 2 after graduating from the maiden ranks last out at Santa Anita. His 5 ¼ lengths score under Martin Garcia, who gets the return call, was at the 1 1/6 miles of the Rebel distance and impressed his connections.
“I like Cupid,” said Barnes. “He’s lightly raced but he turned out to be a good horse. It was just a matter of stretching him out. We ran him short and he needs to run long. The distance of this race shouldn’t be any kind of problem for him with his pedigree, and from the way he ran, he definitely likes the two turns.”
Baffert put Cupid through a pattern of strong works over the Santa Anita strip after that win, and his last was a bullet 6 furlongs in 1:13. 3 when he outworked 22 other horses. He will break from post #3 in the full field of 15, just to the outside of Grade 1 winner Ralis, who is trained by Doug O’Neill and accompanied Cupid on the flight from the West Coast.
“It’s going to be an exciting race. He’s ready to go and I’m pumped,” said O’Neill, who will be in Hot Springs Saturday to saddle Reddam Racing’s homebred son of Square Eddie. “This is a deep prep but a great prep and it will give us a heads-up. It’s a test to see if he can compete with these guys and if we can still think about the Kentucky Derby.”
O’Neill also trains the undefeated Nyquist for Paul and Zillah Reddam and will run the current 2-Year-Old Male champion in the Florida Derby. Other than keeping his pair of Grade 1 winners apart for now on the Triple Crown trail, he thinks the timing of the Rebel the 1 1/16 miles suits him perfectly.
Nonetheless, he knows the 2015 Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes victor will have to bring his ‘A’ game as he’s been idle since a 14th and last place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Oct. 15.
“The long layoff is always a concern,” said O’Neill. “It’s ambitious, but when they’re doing good you’ve got to take chances. This is chancey, but we have a lot of faith in Ralis. I can see where the outsider looking at his form would think ‘What are you doing this for?’ But we’ve seen enough from him in the mornings and enough in the afternoons to think that when he’s doing this well, which he is right now, he deserves his chance. When he’s right, which I think he is right now, he’s a top horse.”
Mario Gutierrez will be aboard Ralis, and he was the regular rider for the Reddams’ I’ll Have Another, who missed his chance for Triple Crown glory in 2012 when O’Neill had to scratch him on the evening of the Belmont Stakes due to a leg injury.
“I’ll Have Another came off a long layoff and won the Bob Lewis (at Santa Anita) and that sent us forward (to Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes wins),” said O’Neill.
Ralis jogged on Wednesday morning, and O’Neill said he expected him to jog 1 mile and gallop 1 mile tomorrow but he will leave the pre-race decisions to stable foreman Sabas Rivera for the rest of the week.
Also entered in the Rebel are Madtap and powerful Feb. 27 Oaklawn maiden winner Creator for trainer Steve Asmussen; Cherry Wine, who will be making his stakes debut after winning his last two starts by a combined 15 ¼ lengths for trainer Dale Romans; Spikes Shirl, a Fair Grounds invader for trainer Dallas Stewart; and Gray Sky, fifth in the Smarty Jones.
The Rebel field from the rail out: Creator, Ricardo Santana Jr., to ride, 115 pounds; Ralis, Mario Gutierrez, 117; Cupid, Martin Garcia, 115; Discreetness, Jon Court, 122; Siding Spring, Joe Rocco Jr., 115; Spikes Shirl, Jesus Castanon, 115; Madtap, Corey Nakatani, 117; American Dubai, Chris Landeros, 115; Z Royal, Ramon Vazquez, 115; Gray Sky, Florent Geroux, 115; Cutacorner, Alex Birzer, 117; Whitmore, Irad Ortiz Jr., 117; Cherry Wine, Corey Lanerie, 115; and Suddenbreakingnews, Luis Quinonez, 122.
Program odds for the Rebel will be released Thursday.
Creator and Madtap will be coupled in the wagering, as will Z Royal and Gray Sky, both trained by Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas. Lukas is the only other trainer to win the Rebel since 2010, that coming in 2013 with Will Take Charge, who would be named champion 3-year-old male.
Baffert won the race last year with American Pharoah, who would return to Oaklawn to win the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1), become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978 and be crowned champion 3-year-old male and Horse of the Year.
Source: Oaklawn Park