Travelers to Oaklawn Park for this afternoon's Rebel Stakes are in for quite a treat with a large festive crowd, great horses and even green beer. It is always especially fun when the Rebel falls on March 17th since the town also boasts the "World's shortest St. Patrick's parade" just a couple of miles north of the track on Central Avenue. But back to the racing -- a very deep field that may appear "chalky" at first glance with Secret Circle and Scatman coming back for another clash, but the morning line reflects the hidden talent lurking in this field; Sabercat 5-1, Najjaar and Adirondack King 6-1 and then Scatman at 8-1. Bettors get ready!
There is a little to like about nearly all of the 13 going postward (including the James McIngvale - Chris Richard entry), but I will mention my main "markings" from the DRF after a late night of studying. Unbridled's Note scratched from a NX2 Allowance Friday where he was 2-1 morning line favorite to tackle the big boys. Asmussen is often deadly with these late blooming horses, lest we forget Nehro just last year. His last race was a toss in my book with the poor start and I expect him to show more speed from the one hole, but this is part of the reason I can't recommend him.
Veteran trainer Lynn Whiting has been unusually vocal on the poor tactics Channing Hill used on Cyber Secret in the Southwest and has replaced him with Robby Albarado for Oaklawn track owner, Charles Cella. Speaking of trainer/jockey combination, Borel often rides Mr. Cella's "A" horses but chose to stick with Dan Peitz trained Najjaar. If you believe (like I do) that the pace will be at least equal to the fast division of the Southwest (46.3 half mile) with the addded sixteenth of a mile this son of Jazil could get there late. He is a beautiful specimen and looks the part of a real "Derby" horse.
I am flipping my stance from the Southwest on two horses I think are moving in opposite directions - out with Reckless Jerry and in with Jake Mo. After flashing speed the first two distance races (both stakes) and tiring, Allen Milligan allowed Oaklawn's leading rider Cliff Berry to take the son of Giacomo off the pace in the Southwest. In spite of the slower pace division, he rallied nicing while splitting horses to make up a bit of ground on Castaway. I think the added distance will only help his causes today at 20-1 on the morning line. Reckless Jerry had every chance to pounce on the turn yet raced evenly to the wire. Perhaps his Cactus Ridge sire distance limitations is catching up with him. Atigun and Adirondack King are also confirmed closers if you anticipate the hot pace. Note Atigun's under the radar sire, Istan, also produced LeComte stakes winner Mr. Bowling two races back at Fair Grounds. Not sure which one will get the best trip, but I'll take the closer Borel is on!
The 8th race is the Grade 3 Azeri where Absinthe Minded will try to protect her turf for D. Wayne Lukas from Fair Grounds invader Joyful Victory. She's All In may be in upset mode. Happy racing to all and looking forward to a fun day of racing at the Spa of the South. Very light rain this morning but the sun is trying to peak through and I fully expect a fast track and lots of green at Oaklawn today (hopefully at the windows as well!).