Photo: Terri Cage
Stakes (G2) winner Hoppertunity was doing well Sunday morning and
preparing to board a plane back to Southern California where a final
decision will be made in the coming
weeks about the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 12. Trainer Bob
Baffert said he won’t know until closer to the race if it will be
Hoppertunity or one of his stablemates returning for one of the last
preps before the Kentucky Derby May 3.
Rebel Stakes was a dramatic finish to an exciting day that also
featured millionaire Close Hatches making a winning 4-year-old debut in
the $200,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) and
Florida invader Golden Lad taking the $200,000 Razorback Handicap (G3).
The top four finishers in the Rebel were within two lengths of each
other after a roughly run last 1/8th of a mile that caused the stewards to post the inquiry sign. After a
lengthy review of the race, they did not change the order of finish.
was a really exciting race, there were four horses coming down to the
wire together with all of that pushing and shoving,” said Baffert’s top
assistant Jim Barnes, who
traveled with Hoppertunity and handled the saddling duties. “He came
back just fine, no worse for the wear. It’s up to Bob if we come back
with him for the Arkansas Derby.”
Runner-up Tapiture, the beaten 2-1 favorite, was also doing well Sunday morning despite the bumping with Hoppertunity.
came back good,” said trainer Steve Asmussen. “He ate up good and he’s
bright-eyed and bushy-tailed this morning, which was the big concern. He
didn’t seem to mind (not
winning) and he didn’t get his feelings hurt. I wish we would have won,
but we still have him and that’s a good thing. Coming back in the
Arkansas Derby is definitely the plan. That’s why we’re here.”
the second straight race, Ride On Curlin had to settle for third after
also finishing third behind Tapiture and Strong Mandate in the Southwest
Stakes (G3) Feb. 17.
came back great and is perfect this morning,” said trainer Billy Gowan.
“He likes a fight, and he got one and he ran hard. We’ll just try to
keep him sound and keep him
moving forward for the Arkansas Derby. That’s the way it looks.”
Mandate, the second betting choice in the Rebel, is still seeking his
first win since last year’s Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes, but has yet to have a
clean trip in any of
his recent races.
fine this morning and we’re looking forward to the next one (Arkansas
Derby),” said Lukas. “Hopefully, we’ll do better next time.”
earned 50 points with his Rebel Stakes victory to bring his total to 55
points based Churchill Downs’ criteria for making the 20-horse Kentucky
Derby field and
is now ranked second among all 3-year-olds on the Derby trail. Tapiture
earned an additional 20 points for finishing second and is now ranked
seventh with 42 points, Ride On Curlin is 14th with 15 points and Strong Mandate sits in 20th-place
with 11 points. There will a total of 170 points available for the top
four finishers of the Arkansas Derby April 12 with the winner receiving