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Nadal Arrives to Oaklawn Looking to Give Baffert Seventh Rebel Win
Ernie Belmonte

Nadal Arrives to Oaklawn Looking to Give Baffert Seventh Rebel Win

HOT SPRINGS, AR – Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert is No. 1 in Rebel Stakes victories, and his latest hope, Nadal, will break from post No. 1 in the $1 million Grade 2 race for 3-year-olds Saturday afternoon at Oaklawn.

Post positions for the 1 1/16-mile Rebel were drawn early Wednesday afternoon, shortly after Nadal and another Rebel entrant, American Theorem, arrived following a flight from Southern California.

“I just heard I got the 1 hole,” Baffert, in jest, said moments after the draw. “At least it’s consistent. We live in the 1 hole.”

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Improbable, Baffert’s last starter in a major Kentucky Derby prep race at Oaklawn, finished second in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) last April after breaking from the rail. Nadal (2 for 2) will try to go one better and remain unbeaten in his two-turn debut and first start outside California. Nadal, in his stakes debut, won the $200,000 San Vicente (G2) Feb. 9 at Santa Anita.

“He shipped really well,” Baffert said. “Just need a break now and find out if he handles two turns. Hopefully, he’ll keep the party going.”

Baffert is seeking his seventh Rebel victory after taking the race in 2010 (Lookin At Lucky), 2011 (The Factor), 2012 (Secret Circle), 2014 (Hoppertunity), 2015 (American Pharoah) and 2016 (Cupid). American Pharoah, who went on to sweep the Triple Crown, is the sire of American Theorem.

The eight-horse Rebel field from the rail out: Nadal, Joel Rosario to ride, 117 pounds; Excession, Tyler Baze, 117; Basin, Javier Castellano, 117; Silver Prospector, Ricardo Santana Jr., 122; No Parole, Joe Talamo, 122; Three Technique, Luis Saez, 117; Coach Bahe, Santo Sajur, 117; and American Theorem, Tiago Pereira, 117.

Three Technique hasn’t started since a runner-up finish in the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 24, Oaklawn’s first of four Kentucky Derby points races. American Theorem hasn’t started since finishing second in the $300,000 American Pharoah Stakes (G1) Sept. 27 at Santa Anita. Basin will be making his first start since winning the $350,000 Hopeful Stakes (G1) Sept. 2 at Saratoga. No Parole is unbeaten and untested in three career starts against Louisiana-bred competition, while Silver Prospector exits a one-length victory in the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 17.

Get exclusive analysis on how to bet this race in our Inside Track to the Rebel Stakes Wagering Guide!

Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen has three entrants (Excession, Basin and Silver Prospector). From the first crop of Liam’s Map, Basin hasn’t started since a sparkling 6 ½-length victory in the $350,000 Hopeful Stakes (G1) Sept. 2 at Saratoga. Basin was targeting the $500,000 Breeders’ Futurity (G1) Oct. 5 at Keeneland before a minor lower leg injury sidelined the colt for the remainder of the year.

“Held my breath for a while now,” Poncik said Tuesday afternoon. “We’re not there yet, but hopefully we’ll get there.”

Basin (2 for 3) was to have made his two-turn debut in the 1 1/16-mile Breeders’ Futurity, Poncik said, before he was found to be a “little off” in his right hind (just above the pastern) in late September. A physical examination revealed a “little spot on his P1 fetlock” and bone was subsequently “shaved off,” Poncik said. Basin returned to the work tab in mid-January.

“Steve really, really took his time,” said Poncik, who is Green’s son-in-law. “I’ll tell you the truth, about four weeks ago, three weeks ago, I didn’t know if we were going to make a Derby prep because he was taking his time and pretty much letting Basin tell us when he was ready.”

Poncik said Basin signaled his readiness with a 5-furlong bullet workout (:59.20) Feb. 25 at Fair Grounds, where the colt had been based before shipping to Oaklawn earlier this month. Basin worked a half-mile in :51.80 Monday morning.

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Among the horses to win Rebel in their 3-year-old debuts are Sunny’s Halo (1983), Victory Gallop (1998), Lookin At Lucky (2010) and American Pharoah (2015). Sunny’s Halo won the Kentucky Derby. Victory Gallop won the Belmont Stakes – the third leg of the Triple Crown – and was the country’s champion older male in 1999. Lookin At Lucky won the Preakness and was an Eclipse Award winner at 2 and 3. American Pharoah swept the Triple Crown en route to Horse of the Year honors.

Basin’s layoff – almost 6 ½ months – is longer than any of those four horses. All had two-turn experience, also.

“It’s the layoff and the two turns,” Poncik said. “Say he ran in the Futurity and a had a layoff, I would probably feel a little better, but it’s up in the air right now what to think. Just happy to be at another race.”

The Rebel will offer 85 points to the top four finishers (50-20-10-5) toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby and is the final major local prep for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 11.

Probable post time for the Rebel, the 10th of 11 races, is 5:23 p.m. (Central). Racing begins at 12:35 p.m.

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