Zipse’s Kentucky Derby Daily – Day 51
prep of the 2011 Kentucky Derby trail? No doubt about it … it’s Saturday’s
Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park.
I have a
lot of great friends down in Arkansas, and they have been raving for weeks
about what a great field the Rebel would attract. I have been listening, and they
were right. 13 three-year-old colts have been entered for the 51st
running of the grade 2 stakes at the lovely Hot Springs oval. The 13 horse
field not only has depth, but the race is loaded with talent and potential. So
much so, that more than half of the field are currently in my top 30 of Derby
contenders. The big seven are comprised of both local stars, as well as a
strong contingent coming from California.
Sway Away will be running away from Southern
California for the first time, and also will be running in his first race
around two-turns. Don’t expect either to give this son of Afleet Alex too much trouble, as he attempts to parlay his
excellent form in sprint stakes into becoming one of the Kentucky Derby
favorites. If he can finish as full of run as he did when a fast closing 2nd
in the San Vicente, he looms the one to beat in here. The winner of the San
Vicente, The Factor, also shipped in
to Arkansas, but he has more distance questions than anyone in the field. The
Bob Baffert trained son of War Front was so impressive in his last two sprints
though, that he may still go off favored on Saturday. He will no doubt be the
one they all have to catch. California import, J P’s Gusto, now trained by Joe Petalino, has been stabled at
Oaklawn for more than a month and ran a deceptively strong race when 2nd
in the Southwest Stakes. Any improvement at all for the multiple stakes winner
could get him in the winner’s circle. While the California trio represents a
strong group, the same could be said for the local runners.
Alternation is coming off two strong wins at the
track since shipping in from Remington Park. The good looking, well bred son of
Distorted Humor has yet to test stakes company, but his steady improvement makes
me think that he will belong with company like this. In his first start at
Oaklawn, he narrowly defeated Elite Alex.
Like Sway Away, Elite Alex is a son of Afleet Alex who has received largely
favorable reviews in his brief career.
The inexperienced Canadian bred has broke in a tangle and raced quite
wide in his last two, but still closed stoutly in both races under Calvin Borel,
including a last out 3rd in the Southwest Stakes. With a little more
seasoning it would be no surprise to see him turn the tables on the Southwest
winner, Archarcharch, who also was
highly regarded before disappointing in the Smarty Jones Stakes in January.
Proving that race was not true, he was strong down the stretch in winning the
Southwest at odds of 14-1. He probably won’t get much more respect Saturday,
but is reported to be doing very well for trainer Jinx Fires. The final of the
big 7 is Caleb’s Posse, who was an
impressive winner of the Smarty Jones before running a troubled trip 6th
in the Southwest for trainer Donnie Von Hemel.
out the rest of the field are Bluegrass Jam, Dreaminofthewin, Glint, J W Blue, Picko’s
Pride, and Saratoga Red. Of those six that are not in my current top 30, Glint
and Picko’s Pride would seem to have the best chance to make some noise.
In a race
that in recent years has produced winners like Smarty Jones, Lawyer Ron,
Curlin, and Lookin at Lucky, it should come as no surprise that the Rebel has
attracted a quality field of potential Derby contenders, and this field is
arguably the deepest edition ever. Will the winner go on to similar exploits of
those names just mentioned? Maybe, maybe not, but one thing is for sure, the
winner of Saturday’s Rebel will earn great experience moving forward to the
cavalry charge that is the Kentucky Derby.
[With seven horses currently in the Top 31 of HRN's 2011 Kentucky Derby Contenders, something has to give. Who will retain their ranking, and who will move up?]