Rebel Field Taking Shape
Following a flurry of recent additions and subtractions, the field for the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) next Saturday at Oaklawn is coming into sharper focus. The race is the final major local prep for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 16.
The projected field grew to 13 Saturday morning with lightly raced Cupid and Z Royal opting to scratch out of races later in the day at Santa Anita and Oaklawn, respectively, in favor of the Rebel, the final major local prep for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 16.
Cupid was entered in the $400,000 San Felipe Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita, but is now booked on a flight originating Tuesday in Southern California to run in the Rebel, a race the colt’s Hall of Fame trainer, Bob Baffert, has won five times since 2010, including last year with Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.
Cupid, a $900,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sales purchase, earned a career-high 88 Beyer Speed Figure in a Feb. 7 maiden victory at Santa Anita. The 1 1/16-mile race was the colt’s third lifetime start and first around two turns. Cupid is a gray son of Tapit.
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas is scheduled to be represented by two horses in the Rebel after scratching Z Royal from the seventh race at Oaklawn, a second-level allowance/optional claimer. Lukas said Ramon Vazquez will have the mount in the Rebel on Z Royal, who is coming off a troubled eighth-place finish in the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 15 at Oaklawn.
Lukas said an iffy racing surface Saturday (Hot Springs has had persistent rain since Tuesday) factored into his decision to point Z Royal to the Rebel.
“The track conditions today aren’t perfect,” Lukas said before training hours Saturday morning. “I thought we would give him a chance to find out where we’re at. He’s doing really well.”
Z Royal races for his breeder, Zayat Stables (Ahmed Zayat), who also campaigned American Pharoah.
Lukas was already scheduled to be represented in the Rebel by Gray Sky, fifth in the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 18 at Oaklawn. He said he has yet to secure a rider for Gray Sky, second in a Feb. 13 allowance race at Oaklawn.
Additionally, trainer Dallas Stewart said he plans to start Fair Grounds-based Spikes Shirl in the Rebel. He also said jockey Jesus Castanon will likely ride the Speightstown colt, who has been second in two allowance optional claiming races in New Orleans this year.
The additions of Cupid and Z Royal offset the recent defections of Mo for the Money, Dazzling Gem and Vorticity.
The Rebel is limited to 14 starters, with starting preference given to horses with the highest earnings. Cupid ($47,500), Spikes Shirl ($41,902) and Z Royal ($40,911) are 11th, 12th and 13th, respectively, among horses confirmed for the 1 1/16-mile Rebel.
Also scheduled to run in the Rebel are Suddenbreakingnews, Whitmore, American Dubai, Discreetness, Ralis, Cutacorner, Creator, Cherry Wine and Siding Spring.
Suddenbreakingnews (first), Whitmore (second), American Dubai (third), Siding Spring (fifth), Discreetness (seventh) and Cutacorner (ninth) also exit the Southwest.
Ralis, also booked on the Tuesday flight from Southern California, will be making his 3-year-old debut for trainer Doug O’Neill. He won the $350,000 Hopeful Stakes (G1) Sept. 7 at Saratoga.
Creator, another gray son of Tapit, was a dazzling Feb. 27 maiden winner at Oaklawn for six-time Oaklawn training champion Steve Asmussen.
Florida-based Cherry Wine will be making his stakes debut for trainer Dale Romans after winning his last two starts by a combined 15 ¼ lengths.
Post positions for the Rebel will be drawn Wednesday.
Trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel said Suddenbreakingnews was “happy and healthy” Saturday morning at Oaklawn in advance of his scheduled start in the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) March 19.
Suddenbreakingnews moved to the top of the local 3-year-old division with a last-to-first victory in the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 15. He has worked twice since the Southwest, but any final pre-Rebel breeze has been impacted by a recent stretch of rain. The track was closed for training Wednesday and Thursday.
“With this weather, we’ve had to modify our work day and time maybe a little bit,” Von Hemel said. “But it’s no big deal.”
Suddenbreakingnews galloped Saturday morning and will “more than likely” breeze once more before the Rebel, Von Hemel said.
Million Dollar Man
Steve Asmussen won two races Friday at Oaklawn to become the first trainer at the meet to surpass $1 million in purse earnings. Asmussen ($1,063,849) has won 22 races through the first 33 days of racing. He is seeking his seventh Oaklawn training title.
Asmussen won Friday’s seventh race with first-time starter Portando and eighth race with unbeaten Taxable. Both winners were for longtime client Winchell Thoroughbreds (Ron and Joan Winchell).
The trainer captured Oaklawn training titles in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2014 and has 474 career victories in Hot Springs, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization.
The track was rated muddy for workouts Saturday morning. … Sarah Sis worked 3 furlongs in :36.40 Saturday morning at Oaklawn in preparation for the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) March 19. The Azeri is the final major local prep for the $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) April 15. … Ramon Vazquez, Oaklawn’s third-leading rider this year, has been cleared to ride Saturday, according to his agent, Ruben Munoz. Vazquez was unseated in Friday’s fourth race and excused from his final two mounts. … Trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel said Saturday morning that Synchrony is doing well, but has nothing specific in mind for the Tapit colt, who fell off the Arkansas Derby trail after a sixth-place finish in the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 15 at Oaklawn. Von Hemel said it’s “50-50” on whether Synchrony will start again before the meeting ends April 16. … Champion Untapable (Azeri), Nickname (Honeybee) and Terra Promessa (Honeybee) all schooled in the paddock during Friday’s second race for six-time Oaklawn training champion Steve Asmussen. … In addition to scheduled Rebel starters Ralis and Cupid, 3-year-old Big Red Rocket is booked on a Tuesday flight from Southern California. Big Red Rocket, a son of champion Summer Bird, finished second in his Feb. 27 career debut at Santa Anita for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. Owner Frank Fletcher of North Little Rock, Ark., purchased Big Red Rocket for $500,000 last April at OBS’ spring sale of 2-year-olds in training. Fletcher and Baffert teamed to win last year’s Northern Spur Stakes at Oaklawn with Wolf Man Rocket, who broke his maiden in the $100,000 race for 3-year-olds. … Super Saks is pointing for the $100,000 Giant’s Causeway Stakes April 16 at Keeneland, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said. Super Saks finished fifth in the $100,000 Spring Fever Stakes Feb. 20 at Oaklawn. … Oaklawn surpassed 300 claims for the meet Friday, the 33rd day of racing. In all, 305 claims have totaled $4,477,000.
Source: Oaklawn Park