Hot Springs, Ark. (Friday, March 18, 2016) – A full field of 14 is entered in the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) for 3-year-olds Saturday at Oaklawn, including 3-1 program favorite Suddenbreakingnews. Probable post time for the race, the 10th of 11 races, is 6:06 p.m. (Central). Racing begins at 1:05 p.m. Weather permitting, the infield will be open for the first time this season Saturday.
The Rebel anchors a card that also includes the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) for older fillies and mares and the $350,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses.
The 1 1/16-mile Rebel, in addition to a record purse (it was worth just $100,000 in 2002), offers 85 points to the four finishers – 50, 20, 10 and 5 – toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby, which is limited to 20 starters. If the Rebel field remains intact, it will equal the second-largest in race history.
The Rebel, first run in 1961, has become one of the country’s most potent Triple Crown prep races in recent years. Rebel winners Smarty Jones, Curlin, Lookin At Lucky and American Pharoah combined for seven Triple Crown victories between 2004-2015. All were named champion 3-year-old male, and American Pharoah became the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978 last year.
This year’s Rebel features entrants from six trainers (D. Wayne Lukas, Bob Baffert, Jack Van Berg, Steve Asmussen, Doug O’Neill and Dale Romans) who have combined for 34 Triple Crown victories; three Hall of Fame trainers (Lukas, Baffert and Van Berg); and two of the four-winningest trainers in North American history (Asmussen and Van Berg).
“They’re probably not going to make a big deal about this, because it’s not happening on the East Coast or the West Coast,” said Ron Moquett of Hot Springs, who co-owns and trains Rebel entrant Whitmore. “But with the exception of me, there’s a lot of good horsemen in this race. I mean, it’s a who’s who, if you think Baffert, Van Berg, Lukas, Asmussen, Doug O’Neill. These are people that win races, and win them with great regularity.”
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.
“I’m certainly happy with my horse,” trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel said. “Post position is what it is. I think between the horses that have been running here, and the ones that are coming in – top to bottom – it’s a really nice race.”
Whitmore, the 7-2 co-second choice, drew post 12 for Moquett, who has given the mount to Irad Ortiz Jr.
Moquett said he’s hoping for a smoother journey Saturday than the one the late-running gelding had in the Southwest, when he was shuffled back under the wire the first time and had to steady late on the backstretch.
“I just want a sensible pace,” Moquett said. “It doesn’t have to be fast. I want to be about half as far back as I was the other day.”
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. But, Discreetness was never a factor in the Southwest after breaking from post 14. He drew more favorably for the Rebel (post 4).
Ralis, winner of the $350,000 Hopeful Stakes (G1) Sept. 7 at Saratoga, is scheduled to make his 3-year-old debut in the Rebel for O’Neill
Baffert bids for his sixth Rebel victory since 2010 with lightly raced Cupid, who exits a 5 ¼-length maiden victory in his two-turn debut Feb. 7 at Santa Anita. Cupid is the 7-2 on the morning line.
Also entered in the Rebel are Madtap and powerful Feb. 27 Oaklawn maiden winner Creator for Asmussen; Cherry Wine, who will be making his stakes debut after winning his last two starts by a combined 15 ¼ lengths for Romans; Spikes Shirl, a Fair Grounds invader for trainer Dallas Stewart; and Gray Sky, fifth in the Smarty Jones.
“I think you can make a case for more than half the field winning the race,” Von Hemel said. “You’re certainly going to have some good fortune to get it done.”
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.
“I think the history of how good the horses that compete well in this race do in the bigger races later in the year speaks for itself,” said Ron Moquett of Hot Springs, who co-owns and trains Rebel entrant Whitmore. “You have to also look at the money.”
Source: Oaklawn Park