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HOT SPRINGS, AR – A month removed from passing his first exam in the form of graded stakes foes, Nadal aced his latest test on Saturday, this time overcoming an off track and his two-turn debut to win the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park.
Breaking from the rail under Joel Rosario as the 4/5 favorite, Nadal burst along the inside and held inside position on the front end, but American Theorem refused to let him have it easily. Running heads apart, the two posted blistering opening fractions of :22.89, :46.00, and 1:11.38.
Putting away American Theorem midway through the far turn, Nadal hit the top of the stretch with a slightly growing advantage. His free run ended soon after passing the 1/8 pole, however, as the rail-skimming Excession tipped out and was suddenly eating into his advantage.
All out along the rail in the late stages, Nadal dug in gamely and successfully held the rallying Excession at bay. The Bob Baffert trainee completed the 1 1/16-mile event over the sloppy (sealed) main track in a final time of 1:44.97.
“We were hoping for that outcome,” Baffert said. “We knew he was a good horse, but until they go two turns, and then the way it set up, the speed duel and all? Pretty impressive when they can just keep going like that. Only the really good ones can do that.”
At 82/1 the longest shot on the board, Excession’s near-victory put him 7 lengths ahead of a three-way photo for third. Basin ultimately headed Three Technique, with Coach Bahe a neck back in sixth. Silver Prospector, American Theorem, and No Parole completed the order of finish.
The Rebel is part of the Road to the 2020 Kentucky Derby prep race season. Nadal earned 50 points for the win, with Excession receiving 20 for second, Basin 10 for third, and Three Technique 5 for fourth.
Nadal’s win was his third in as many career starts, having broken his maiden at Santa Anita Park in January before winning the 7-furlong San Vicente Stakes (G2) there in February. The 3-year-old son of Blame, purchased for $700,000, has now earned $753,000 for co-owners George Bolton, Arthur Hoyeau, Barry Lipman, and Mark Mathiesen.
“It was an amazing effort because he was in the 1 hole and he was told to go to the lead,” Bolton said. “And when you are told to go to the lead in a mile and 1/16 race, and he’d never gone around two turns, you are sending the horse into a potential oxygen debt and potential stress. When he turned for home and was a length or two ahead, I thought, ‘You know what? He may be special. This may be a special horse and he may have the ability to go fast and then go faster.’ He didn’t waver. When the pressure hit, he stood and he took it and he accelerated.”
Nadal returned $3.80 to win, $4 to place, and $3.20 to show. Excession brought back $37 to place and $10.60 to show, while Basin paid $4.40 to show.
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