last time I covered this same topic was in the days leading up to the 2013 Southwest Stakes. In order to dig into what else was at stake besides the
Kentucky Derby qualification points you had to mention Bob Baffert and a
particular winning streak. At that time the only way I could lead off was by
reminding everyone that the hall of fame trainer was returning to the track
that he absolutely torched in the 2012 Kentucky Derby prep season. What
happened next was another remarkable accomplishment for the Hall of Fame
time it was Super Ninety Nine who took the lead and made it clear that Baffert
had picked up in the 2013 season from the same exact spot where he left off in
2012; first place. The vibrant 11 length win over
a sloppy track at Oaklawn kept the streak alive and extended it to five
consecutive Kentucky Derby Preps that Baffert had claimed from Hot Springs, Arkansas. Wow.
here we are for the 2013 Rebel Stakes. Bob Baffert is back again and
with him comes two Kentucky Derby contenders that could stretch the
streak to six. But, before we dissect the chances of Super Ninety Nine and Den’s Legacy let’s rewind to look at how extraordinary this run has become.
you recall, the 2012 Southwest Stakes was split into two separate races in
order to accommodate the 21 entries. As luck would have it, Baffert’s two
horses did not have to face each other which gave him the unlikely chance of
winning them both. But, after all was said and done, he and jockey Rafael
Bejarano made it appear so easy. Secret Circle and Castaway were the winners and
the streak began.
team was back in the Rebel Stakes. After Secret Circle won again the
stars were aligned for an unprecedented sweep as long as Baffert returned for the
G1 Arkansas Derby. And he did, except this time he was with a different
derby contender. He brought a horse from California that had all the talent in
world but maybe not enough experience to seal the deal. The questions only loomed
until Bodemeister broke from the gate and took the lead. From there, it was all
but over as the gifted colt never yielded. The streak continued and Bob Baffert
had just completed one of the most unbelievable Kentucky Derby prep seasons
from one single track that I have ever seen.
the field was announced for the 2013 Southwest Stakes I was delighted to see
that Baffert would be returning for the first of three Kentucky Derby preps
from Oaklawn in this year’s new qualification prep season. Super Ninety Nine gave him a very solid chance but I
was not able to decide if he could carry the torch. Although Baffert wasn’t even there and S99 was the lone entry going
for him, it didn’t matter. Super Ninety Nine was nothing short of super and his
wire to wire victory kept the winning streak alive.
while we’re on the topic of streaks and this is the Rebel Stakes, now would be
a good time to mention just one other streak that Bob Baffert has going; his
fourth consecutive win in the Rebel. This one started with Lookin at Lucky in 2010, followed by The Factor and Secret Circle. The three-peat was quite
an achievement. Plus, both streaks being active at the same time is even more outstanding. However, does anyone else think that the challenge has met its match in this
thing that catches your attention right away when looking at Baffert’s chances
is that his go to jockey for Kentucky Derby preps at Oaklawn is back in the
saddle. Rafael Bejarano is just as much a part of the current winning streak as
anyone else. Well, almost. With the exception of Bodemeister (Mike Smith)
Bejarano was aboard for all of the victories in the 2012 season as well as the
Southwest Stakes this year. He now returns for the mount on Super Ninety Nine.
Together this trio has been too tough to outmatch but the situation in the 2013
Rebel presents a golden opportunity.
this field of 11 Baffert actually caught a tough break at Oaklawn when
Super Ninety Nine drew the far outside post position. However, if you ask Baffert
he might just tell you that it’s nothing new. What’s funny is that if he did
tell you that, he wouldn’t be lying. In last year's Arkansas Derby Bodemeister started from that exact same post position. So, based on their similar
styles of racing, if Super Ninety Nine can get away fast and clean he could
very easily end up right where he wants to be; on the lead.
though the post position may not be the toughest obstacle for Baffert, I still
believe that there is another big one that will make this his hardest victory
to score. It's actually the first thing that stands out to me when looking at this field. There appears to be a horse
or two that are going to challenge Super Ninety Nine for the
first that likes to push the pace is Delhomme, trained by Tood Pletcher and Title Contender is
another. This is based solely on their previous races and most recent so if
that’s where they go, it looks like it could become a fluid pace with lightening
fast fractions. If that’s the case then I have two questions.
Will Super Ninety Nine and Bejarano allow them to lead the field? If so, can Super
Ninety Nine find a good position close to the front and hold off a late run down the stretch? The mid pack or close
stalkers that present the biggest threat in my opinion are Treasury Bill and
Oxbow,who is trained by D. Wayne Lukas and is very familiar with the track here at Oaklawn. Both horses have already raced against fields on this same level so I
can’t assume that they won’t be up for the challenge on Saturday.
for the remainder of the field, a sleeper horse that catches my attention is
Carve, trained by Steve Assmussen and ridden by Corey Nakatani. It will be his
graded stakes debut so I can’t make a bold statement on his chances based on
his racing so far but he could still manage to make a move in the Rebel.
I believe this field presents a challenge for Bob Baffert and his attempt at
owning yet another Kentucky Derby prep at Oaklawn. But then again, I still
think both streaks can be summed up as: Unbelievable. His latest installment was thrilling so maybe it was either a fitting close to a good streak or just another edition. Which brings me to my final question. All good things do come
to end from time to time but will Baffert’s dominance in Hot Springs end at the
2013 Rebel Stakes?
I can't decide because I see it both ways, how about you?