the last sixteen years, the Rebel Stakes
has produced a roll call of elite stars that figure prominently in the
Triple Crown events. Fans at Oaklawn
have seen the likes of American Pharoah, Smarty Jones, Curlin, Afleet Alex,
Lookin at Lucky, Oxbow and Creator compete in the 1 1/16 mile Grade 2 event. Steppenwolfer and Ride on Curlin, placed in
the Rebel, plus the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, respectively.
field of eleven 2017
Kentucky Derby contenders are primed to contest the Rebel Stakes, The
winner will earn 50 points towards a reservation in the Derby starting gate.
Oh say, can you see…
We all know that Bob Baffert
ships his best Derby hopefuls to Oaklawn. Since Baffert started this practice, he’s
won six of the last seven editions of the Rebel. The one time his horse didn’t
win, he placed third.
year, Baffert’s hopes lie with American Anthem (Bodemeister - Indy's Windy, by A.P. Indy). Is
American Anthem good enough to give Baffert his fourth consecutive Rebel Stakes
trophy? As much as I like this horse, I’ll say not this time.
In January, American Anthem gave Grade 1 Stakes hero Gormley all he
could handle in the Sham Stakes. Gormley’s experience earned him the victory by
a short nose. The Grade 3 contest was
essentially a one mile match race over an uncharacteristically muddy track at
Santa Anita. In in the San Felipe Stakes last week, Gormely could manage no
better than a tired, distant fourth place against the tragically brilliant Mastery.
Warning signs for the Rebel favorite? I wonder how much the fight
with Gormley took out of American Anthem.
American Anthem is making his third career
start in the Rebel. His speed figure (Bris) jumped eight points from his maiden
win to the Sham Stakes. Yes, American Anthem has two sharp works, but his final
breeze with Mor Spirit was just so-so, and he was under pressure to stay with Mor
Spirit past the wire.
I love American Anthem’s pedigree, but his late pace speed figures
hit a sour note and there are too many warning signs that he may regress. Read American
Eeny Meeny Miny…
Royal Mo (Uncle Mo - Royal Irish Lass, by Saint Ballado) ruled his competition in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3) in February, beating Grade 1 placed Irap by a widening 3 ½ lengths. There’s a lot of speed in the Rebel. So, will Victor Espinoza employ the same tactics in the Rebel against cheap speed or try to rate? Royal Mo gets better with each start and he could be the one to beat.
Untrapped (Trappe Shot - Exit Three, by Giant's
Causeway) was second in the LeComte and Risen Star at the Fair Grounds. His
speed figures have improved with each start and he owns the highest late pace
speed figure in the field. Steve Asmussen
gives the colt a jockey upgrade to Irad Ortiz, Jr.,
plus the change of scenery could result in victory.
Petrov (Flatter - Saracina, by Bertrando)
was beaten like a roan headed stepchild, first by Uncontested in the Smarty
Jones and then by One Liner in the
Southwest. Ron Moquett’s
charge likes to stalk the pace, but is developing a bad case of second-itis. Petrov’s speed figures are improving with every
start and he tries hard.
Malagacy (Shackleford - Classiest Gem, by
Dehere) is the East Coast answer to Mastery, at least, so far. The Todd Pletcher
trainee has demolished his competition by a combined 22 lengths sprinting over
the speed-favoring Gulfstream surface. Malagacy has three things to overcome;
shipping, trying two turns and a class upgrade. If Malagacy wants to play the
speed game, he’ll have plenty of company. Plus, Todd Pletcher has sent
contenders to Oaklawn in the past and has yet to have his picture taken in the
Uncontested (Tiz Wonderful - Galileo's Star, by
Lil E. Tee) eagerly threw down fast early fractions in the Southwest Stakes
while Channing Hill
had his feet on the dashboard. By mid-stretch, Uncontested felt the draft as
Petrov and One Liner blew by. Uncontested staggered across the finish a dozen
lengths back. Despite being on the lead Uncontested just doesn’t relax. This
plays against him in the long run. Save him for sprinting.
Grumpy Old Men
Silver Bullion (Pioneerof the Nile - Love Buzz, by
Silver Charm) regressed slightly in his first start against winners last time
out. He has a later maturing pedigree and his first three dams are all stakes
winners, so the promise is there. He hasn’t done anything wrong, but Silver
Bullion hasn’t shown the speed to be competitive here. But wait, guess who
trains him? That sneaky old fox Wayne Lukas.
Silver Bullion could turn to gold if he pulls it off.
Appalachian Gem (Gemologist - Briar Hill
Dixie, by Dixieland Band) was a determined winner in his first try around two
turns, and he has the pedigree to improve with maturity and some distance. Not
much class in Appalachian Gem’s first two generations, but his third dam won
the Marion Van Berg Memorial Hcp. Guess who trains Appalachian Gem? Jack Van Burg.
And when was the last time you saw Gary Stevens
on a 30-1 shot? Call me nostalgic, but I’m rootin’ for the old timers.
Bringing up the rear...
Lookin At Lee (Lookin At Lucky -
Langara Lass, by Langfuhr) is one of those horses who make a furious rush from
the back of the pack, but unlike Zenyatta or Victory Gallop, Lee never gets
there in time. He might have won a few of those starts if he wasn’t so far
back. Lookin At Lee’s two victories were obtained when the colt sat much closer
to the pace. He appears to have the speed to do so, since he won at six
furlongs in 1:10. Maybe Ricardo
Santana, Jr. needs to set the alarm clock for earlier in the race.
Sonneteer (Midnight Lute - Ours, by Half Ours)
is a career maiden. But don’t be so quick to dismiss him. Sonneteer’s unraced
dam is a half-sister to Hopeful (G1) winner Dublin. Sonneteer owns the second
highest late pace speed figure in the field and his one-run style plays against
him on the California tracks. Could he be a live longshot or is he this year’s
Silver Dust (Tapit - Filare l'Oro, by
Hard Spun) ate a lot of dust in the Southwest. He spent most of his time in
traffic and passed tired horses to get a minor award a dozen lengths behind One
Liner. Maybe he shook some of the dust off in his first 3YO start, but I think
he’ll run into some dust busters here. He could step up for a minor award with
an easier trip. Silver Dust’s dam won the 1 1/8 mile Virginia Oaks over the
lawn and she’s a half-sister to the hard-knocking veteran handicap horse
Gouldings Green. Perhaps a surface
change will bring out the shine for Silver Dust.
the last ten editions of the Rebel Stakes, four winners led the field on a
merry chase. Two pressed the pace, while three sat mid-pack early before making
their moves. Only one was a closer.
#10 ROYAL MO (9-2)
#4 PETROV (9-2)
#5 UNTRAPPED (8-1)