Led by Graded stakes winners Super Ninety Nine and Oxbow, a field of 11 will chase the lucrative purse and Kentucky Derby points Saturday in the $600,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn.
Super Ninety Nine returns to Hot Springs from California after winning Oaklawn’s Southwest Stakes (G3) last month. Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has dominated the local 3-year-old scene in recent seasons and looks to win his fourth consecutive Rebel. He pairs the colt with jockey Rafael Bejarano again. They will break from the outside, post 11, in the 1 1/16th-mile race. Baffert will also send Den’s Legacy to the Rebel for his Arkansas-based owners Westrock Stables. He will be ridden by Robby Albarado from post 6.
The Rebel is the next step on the road to the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) and offers 85 total points in the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” program used to determine which horses get to run at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May. The winner of the Rebel earns 50 points and will be safely in the field if more than 20 horses enter.
In addition to the pair trained by Baffert, fellow Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas sends out a pair of stakes winners in Oxbow and Will Take Charge. The former, owned by Calumet Farm, won the Lecomte Stakes at Fairgrounds in New Orleans and teams with Mike Smith for the first time from post 10. Will Take Charge won the Smarty Jones Stakes here in January and again has jockey Jon Court aboard out of gate 7.
Lukas will be in search of his second career Rebel victory. He finished second last year with Optimizer and put the finishing touches on their preparation Monday and Tuesday.
“They’re excellent and all good to go this morning,” said Lukas. “They came out of their works in good order. I spoke to Mike (Smith) briefly last week. Of course, it doesn’t have to be a lot of conversation with a rider like him. I’m just going to put him on the horse and send him out there.”
From the East, Delhomme invades for WinStar Farm, Twin Creeks Racing and trainer Todd Pletcher. The Rebel will be the Dixie Union colt’s first start of 2013. He was last seen finishing third in the Remsen Stakes (G2) in New York last November and will team with jockey Garrett Gomez for the first time Saturday from post 4.
The stacked line-up also includes stakes winner Texas Bling for Hall’s Family Trust and trainer Danele Durham. The Texas-bred won the Springboard Mile in Oklahoma late last year and just missed to Will Take Charge in the Smarty Jones. Texas Bling will need to answer for a disappointing effort in the Southwest when the sloppy track left him floundering in ninth.
Joining the Baffert pair on the plane from California is Treasury Bill, most recently second in the San Vicente (G2) at Santa Anita Feb. 17. He will be coupled in a wagering entry with Title Contender, a former West Coast runner now based in New Orleans with trainer Wayne Catalano. Both runners are owned by Gary and Mary West.The complete field for the Rebel with their riders in program order: 1 (post 2) Treasury Bill, Joe Talamo; 1A (post 9) Title Contender, Luis Quinonez; 2 (post 1) Carve, Corey Nakatani; 3 Texas Bling, Cliff Berry; 4 Delhomme, Gomez; 5 Hardrock Eleven, Terry Thompson; 6 Den’s Legacy, Albarado; 7 Will Take Charge, Court; 8 Stormy Holiday, Derek Bell; 9 (post 10) Oxbow, Smith and 11 Super Ninety Nine, Bejarano.