The 2013 Kentucky Derby trail travels through Hot Springs, Arkansas, this Saturday for the G2 Rebel Stakes. The $600,000 race is the final prep for the G1 Arkansas Derby next month. There's no shortage of talent as a strong field of 11 competitors will be battling for points towards gaining entry into the Churchill Downs starting gate on May 4th. The 1 1/16 mile Rebel will give the top-four finishers 50-20-10-5 points and move one step closer to running in the Kentucky Derby.
Canadian-bred Sunny’s Halo put the Rebel Stakes on the map after using it as a springboard to his 1983 Arkansas and Kentucky Derby wins. More recently, Smarty Jones (2004) swept the entire Oaklawn Park 3-year old prep series before going on to capture the 130th running of the roses.
This race and all of the rest of the preps take on added meaning because of the point system and the 2013 Rebel features a strong field going postward on their quest for Kentucky Derby glory, therefore, look for this contest to be very competitive.
The race's top contender, looking to boost his current total of 10 points, is Bob Baffert's Super Ninety Nine. The colt splashed his way to a big wire-to-wire score in the Southwest Stakes here last month. Baffert loves to ship in and use the Oaklawn track for Derby preps. The 60-year old conditioner has won the last three runnings of the Rebel and was victorious in two divisions of the Southwest Stakes last year, and also the 2010 version. Baffert has also brought Den's Legacy to contest what should be an intriguing affair. Let's analyze the field from the rail out.
*- Coupled Entries - Treasury Bill, Title Contender
1.Carve/Nakatani/Asmussen--Exciting newcomer to the Triple Crown scene is a local runner that has just two career starts - both wins. Last time out was an solid optional allowance score over Title Contender after a maiden claiming win in his debut. Interesting note: Was claimed from his initial start by Asmussen. Has loads of potential, but no proven results against top-end competition.
*-2.Treasury Bill/Talamo/Ellis--Looking to earn his first points toward Louisville. Comes off a strong 2nd place performance in the San Vicente last month. Attempts two turns for the first time, but being a son of Lemon Drop Kid, I don't see a problem with the distance. He has been in the money in all three career races and ahould be expected to challenge Saturday as well.
3.Texas Bling/Berry/Durham--Most experienced participant in the field with a dozen starts. This colt ran big when winning the Remington Springboard Mile and finishing 2nd in the Smarty Jones, but may not have cared for the sloppy surface when finishing a distant 9th in the Southwest Stakes last time out. If the off-track that day truly was a legitimate excuse, this colt could bounce back.
4.Delhomme/Gomez/Pletcher--What would a KY Derby prep race be without a Pletcher runner? Returns off a very long layoff, last we seen him was a 3rd place finish in Remsen last November at Aqueduct. Has been training well in Florida and could contend from a favorable post draw. He needs Derby points, and has been working forwardly as presumably a top priority for this barn. Owns some speed in a race that is loaded with speed, so Gomez will have to figure out a good trip.
5.Hardrock Eleven/Thompson/Banks--He's won a single race from seven career starts. Has raced 4 times on dirt and 4 times at a mile or longer. His latest effort was a distant and disappointing twelfth in the G2 Risen Star Stakes last month. A pair of minor stakes placings is the best this colt has accomplished, so it isn't to tough to figure out he doesn't belong in here.
6.Dan’s Legacy/Albarado/Baffert--Another with plenty of race experience. The Rebel Stakes marks the 11th career race for this sophomore. Always gives a good account of himself. Ultra consistent horse has finished 2nd or better in 5 of his last 6 including runner-up finishes in top prep races such as the G2 Robert Lewis and the G3 Sham Stakes, which showcased top horses like Violence, Goldencents and Flashback. Will be closing from off the pace in a speed ladened line-up
7.Will Take Charge/Court/Lukas--In a hard fought battle winning the Smarty Jones Stakes two back, he showed that he likes the Oaklawn track, so maybe it WAS the sloppy surface last time out in the Southwest that accounted for his dismal run. A bit of a wild card when it comes to racing as he has been a bit inconsistent. If this colt can return to his Smarty Jones form and the track is dry, we should see a much better effort.
8.Stormy Holiday/Bell/Robertson--Two straight wins to start his career, followed by a trio of fourth place finishes - most recently in the 6 furlong Gazebo Stakes here last month. Nothing in his record indicates he can successfully compete with this bunch.
*-9.Title Contender/Quinonez/Catalano--Made five starts for former trainer Baffert before switching barns. He ended his juvenile season with two embarrassing losses in G1 company - BC Juvenile and Cash Call Futurity. Returned to action last month and gave up the lead late, losing to Carve by three-quarters of a length in an optional allowance affair. It was a good effort and I expect improvement in this his 2nd race off a layoff. However, the bottom line is he hasn't been competitive in stakes action yet - no reason to think he flicks the switch Saturday.
10.Oxbow/Smith/Lukas--It took his colt took a few tries (4) to get things figured out as a juvenile. His coming out party was his 3-year old debut when he easily won the Lecomte Stakes at Fairgrounds by nearly twelve lengths two starts back. I thought he was more impressive when finishing 4th in the Risen Star last out. In that G2 event, he was wide in the first turn, then moved too soon and ended up getting beat a half-length. Training very well and now gets to stay home for the Rebel. Gets a major rider upgrade to Smith.
11.Super Ninety Nine/Bejarano/Baffert--What a showing he gave last time out against solid competition in the Southwest Stakes winning as easy as can be. Yes, I know the Oaklawn surface was sloppy and speed favoring, but nonetheless, he did it in such a composed way that his manner of victory was exceptional. Has now won his last two races at one mile or longer, and in doing so, he has in my opinion, been more impressive than any other horse on the current Derby trail. Super Ninety Nine's form got a boost recently when his Santa Anita runner-up, Code West, was an unlucky second in the Risen Star. Wide post is a concern and the Rebel lineup could prove to be tougher than the Southwest, but there is a lot of talent in this colt and he is on the top of his game right now. Should be primed for another big performance.
2nd- Super Ninety Nine